NASA gave the green light on Friday to next week’s launch of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX vessel — the primary crewed space flight from US soil in nine years and an important step towards ending American dependence on Russian rockets. Top officials at the US space agency and Elon Musk’s company had been meeting since Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final checks of the Crew Dragon capsule before its maiden May 27 crewed mission.
“At the top we need to a go,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters by video of the meticulous Flight Readiness Review, which provided the go-ahead.
US astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are scheduled to explode from Kennedy’s historic Launch Pad 39A at 2:03am IST on Thursday for the International space platform , arriving subsequent day.
Asked about going ahead with the mission within the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Behnken told reporters: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Behnken and Hurley are in strict quarantine since May 13 due to the pandemic, but they said their actual isolation began as far back as mid-March.
“We are in quarantine probably longer than the other space crew has ever been within the history of the program ,” Hurley said.
He said he and Behnken are tested twice thus far for COVID-19 and “rumor has it we’d be tested again before we go.”
American astronauts are flying to the ISS, which currently houses two Russians and one American, on Russian rockets since the US spacecraft program was shelved in 2011 after three decades of service.
Should the SpaceX mission succeed, the us will have achieved its goal of not having to shop for seats on Russian Soyuz rockets to send astronauts to the ISS, which has been occupied by US and Russian astronauts since 2000.