NASA astronauts are scheduled to blast into space on Saturday at 3:22 p.m. aboard a rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which would mark the first space launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.
The first attempted launch on Wednesday was scrubbed with less than than 17 minutes left in the the countdown clock because of stormy weather around the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The forecast for Saturday doesn’t look much better. Weather.com says at 3 p.m., there will be scattered thunderstorms in the area, with a 55% chance of rain.
“Mission managers plan to make an earlier decision on weather hazards in a bid to avoid unnecessarily wearing out the crew with another suit-up and full day of launch preparations,” Fox News reported. “Back-to-back wet dress rehearsals” disrupt the astronauts’ sleep cycles, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told a Friday news conference.
If successful, American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule. The last such launch came in July 2011 and became the final mission of NASA’s space shuttle program.
Crew Dragon Demo-2 will also be the first two-person orbital spaceflight launched from the U.S. since STS-4 in 1982.
“It’s just been an incredible journey to get us this far, and in some ways it’s really hard to believe we’re gonna launch next week, but it’s incredibly exciting,” Hurley said last week during a meeting of the National Space Council, a policy-steering body led by Vice President Mike Pence.
“It’s a real honor to just be a part of this program and to launch American rockets from Florida one more time,” said Hurley, 53, who was on board that last space shuttle flight in 2011.
Hurley, the mission commander, and Behnken will conduct experiments on board the ISS, where they are scheduled to stay for one to four months, until the next Crew Dragon launch. They will then return to Earth for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Canaveral.
“Our country has been through a lot,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week in a news briefing. “But this is a unique moment when all of America can take a moment and look at our country do something stunning again, and that is to launch American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil to the space station.”
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the Kennedy Space Center three days ago for the first launch attempt, and Trump is scheduled to fly down again on Saturday.
If the mission is scrubbed again, the next launch window will be Sunday afternoon. Weather reports look better for that day.
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