SpaceX was preparing to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday night, but the odds for fine weather were still 50-50, and Covid-19 sidelined the company’s boss, Elon Musk.
Once it succeeds, the attempt will be Nasa’s first full-fledged operation to carry a crew onboard a private spacecraft into orbit. At 7:27 pm Eastern time (0027 GMT on Monday), the company’s newly constructed Crew Dragon spacecraft was scheduled for takeoff.
For the eagerly delayed start of routine team rotations aboard privately run capsules, Mike Pence was expected at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In nearly 10 years, it was also just the second time astronauts were scheduled to launch from the US into space.
“Gameday!” tweeted Nasa astronaut Mike Hopkins, the crew commander.
Physicist Shannon Walker and marine commander and aspiring astronaut Victor Glover, who would be the first black explorer to serve an extended time onboard the space station, will be part of Hopkins’s crew, an air force colonel. Only the third person to launch into orbit onboard three different spaceship types will be Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
In consideration of all the threats in 2020, most importantly, the global pandemic, they called their capsule Resilience. For a spacecraft and crew-vehicle system that really was 10 decades in the making, NASA calls the flight its first “operational” mission. It reflects a new age of commercially produced spacecraft for sending Americans into orbit – owned and run by a private company instead of Nasa.
“This is the result of a lot of people’s years of work and effort, and a bit more time,” Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs for SpaceX, told reporters on Friday.
The launch was initially scheduled for Saturday, but Tropical Storm’s remainsEta’s remains were relocated because of the high wind.
Musk announced via Twitter that, amid mixed medical reports, he “most likely” does have a mild coronavirus case. For those showing symptoms of the virus, the Nasa policy is to quarantine and stay isolated. Musk stayed positive. “Today’s astronaut launch! On Sunday morning, he tweeted, adding that last week he had symptoms but felt “pretty normal” at present.
SpaceX officials did not respond to questions on the whereabouts of Musk.
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) November 15, 2020
As the takeoff time came, the four astronauts worked their way to the launch facility in Tesla cars. Nasa tweeted their playlist, which included Phil Collins, Lenny Kravitz, and Alicia Keys.
He said on Friday, “Our astronauts have been in isolation for weeks, and they should not have interaction with anyone.” “They ought to be well in shape.”
The launch comes only 3 months, just after successfully completing the first occupied SpaceX flight of a Dragon crew capsule by two Nasa test pilots.
Following its Starliner capsule’s marred space debut last December, the company is still working to solve tech problems.