The NASA Astronauts who will conduct the first manned flight launched from the United States in nearly a decade are veteran Space Shuttle pilots, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken. On Wednesday, May 27th at around 4:32 p.m. Eastern Time, a Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida, carrying the brave astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission is called Demo-2, it is the final test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) that will demonstrate to NASA the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s capabilities to obtain a human-rated certification for operational missions.
Astronaut Hurley, who is 53 years old, will be the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing, and recovery. While, Astronaut Behnken, 49 years old, will be the joint operations commander for the Demo-2 mission. He will be responsible for Dragon’s rendezvous to the orbiting laboratory, as well as docking and undocking the craft. They are set to make history, when SpaceX return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States.Behnken and Hurley have two Space Shuttle missions of experience and have performed thousands of hours piloting supersonic jets. The pair are best friends who both married astronauts and attended each other’s wedding. Astronaut Hurley is married to a NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg. And Astronaut Behnken is also married to a NASA Astronaut, Katherine Megan McArthur. Behnken and Hurley both have a small son under the age of ten.
During the interview, the astronauts were asked what makes them “badass.” The astronauts proceeded to share what makes each other “badass.”
Behnken responded:“Doug is ready for anything all the time. He is always prepared and when you’re going to fly into space on a test mission you could couldn’t ask for a better person. Or a better type of individual to be there with you. So, I am just thankful that doing something like this – I’m doing it with Doug Hurley because he is going to be prepared for whatever comes our way and he is …prepared quickly. So, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Then, Astronaut Hurley said: “As far as Bob, he is quite the bad [ass] –and I’ll let you put in the next word,” he joked, in reference to the word ‘ass.’ – he continued: “But there is no stone unturned no way that he doesn’t have every potential eventuality already thought about you know, five times ahead of anybody else…So, there’s no question I can ask him that he doesn’t quite already have…the best answer for… It’s such a pleasure … it’s such an asset to have somebody like that on a crew with you. […] He’s already had it all figured out. Everything that we could possibly – potentially -deal with and it just makes it so much easier when you have somebody like that with your crew.”
“Have a plan for every situation,” Behnken added.
During the Demo-2 mission on Wednesday, they will pilot the Crew Dragon spacecraft manually for a couple of moments to test out the feature and ensure it works well for future operational missions. Crew Dragon is capable of operating with full autonomy, the manual capability is there in case of an emergency.
SpaceX released an interactive online simulator game, which is a replica of what astronauts used to train for the Demo-2 mission. The interactive simulator allows players to try to dock the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, using similar controls the astronauts will use during their voyage in space. Crew Dragon Simulator Game -Try it out while you wait for launch day!
During the question-and-answer session, the astronauts shared that tomorrow their family will arrive at the Kennedy Space Center and they will wish family farewell at a distance during launch day. The astronauts are under a quarantine period in which they cannot be near many people due to the coronavirus outbreak that has spread globally.
Though, Astronaut Hurley shared that astronaut quarantine is not a new procedure, it is done ahead every spaceflight to ensure no diseases are carried into the space station. He said “medical scrutiny” is “relatively normal” and that he is quite used to blood draws and all the medical screenings that come with launching to space. The Astronauts have been testing for the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by coronavirus twice already, and they will be tested one final time before they head to space. The astronauts have been under quarantine since March 15 to not put their health at risk ahead of this important mission that will turn the United States into a nation with human launch capabilities power once again. “We are still in quarantine… Our families arrive tomorrow.” Hurley shared.
Tomorrow, May 23, NASA and SpaceX personnel will have a launch day rehearsal, during which Astronauts Behnken and Hurley will wear their spacesuits to mimic launch day operations with teams.
They will go over everything they will do during launch day. Starting with wearing their spacesuits. Then, they will ride a Tesla Model X from the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy to launch pad 39A, where they will ride the elevator of the launch pad’s tower to will walk across SpaceX’s Crew Access Arm, which is a hallway leading to a white room, where a team will help the astronauts get onboard the spacecraft to simulate a countdown.
Behnken and Hurley also shared today they named Crew Dragon spacecraft, similar to how the Space Shuttle fleet had names (for example: Space Shuttle -Discovery). Hurley said NASA will release the name they selected for Crew Dragon ahead of launch. “It’s a tradition that should be continued, and we feel honored to continue this tradition,” he said.