Should the weather hold up, and so far it is, tomorrow afternoon America and the world will be watching a unique moment in history with the launch of the SpaceX Crew Demo 2 mission.
Specifically, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said “this is a unique moment where all of America can take a moment and look at our country do something stunning again.”
Indeed, if all goes well then at 4:33 pm EDT SpaceX will launch two American astronauts for the first time in a return to flight for America from US soil, something NASA has been promoting vigorously.
During this morning’s 45 minute briefing, Bridenstine also cautioned that this is a test flight saying “remember, this is a test flight. The highest priority is to test the vehicle and get it home safely, and then be prepared to launch Crew-1.”
The risks have been mitigated to the point that NASA gave the green light for the mission after a successful Launch Readiness Review yesterday.
This morning’s briefing also included NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhardo, Bob Cabana, a former astronaut and director of Kennedy Space Center, and NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgreno and Nicole Mann.
Jim Morhardo said at one point, “Why are we here? We’re here to expand the human condition for all mankind… right now, we’ve got one astronaut on the International Space Station and when we get the full complement back of astronauts, we’re going to increase our research up there by 300%.”
And therein lies an ongoing problem with the US and international partner participation on the International Space Station. The only way ‘up’ to the space station since mid-2011 has been on the ever increasing in cost Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Canada, with a smaller budget than the other space station partners has resisted buying extra seats on the costly Soyuz. With the US human spaceflight set to resume, Canada might be able to send more astronauts to the space station.
Watch the last SpaceX Crew Demo 2 media briefing
Bridenstine and Morhardo both stated that while the US is getting back capability to the get astronauts to the space station, they still need Russia to launch astronauts. It takes an international effort to get astronauts to the space station and fully staffed for research to proceed at regular speed.
Astronaut Nicole Mann speaking on the importance of the moment said, “this is just not about one launch. I mean, this is Launch America … it is our first big step on our roadmap to the Moon for the Artemis mission.”
Bob Cabana summed up the history of launching from Pad 39A. “We went to the Moon from Pad 39A. And 82 of 135 shuttle missions launched off that pad, including 3 of my flights.”
President Trump and Vice-President Pence will be on hand for the launch attempt.
Let’s hope the weather holds out. Right now, NASA says weather conditions are 60% favourable.