The two astronauts who end an absence of nine-year launches for the United States special agency NASA arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, exactly a week before their historic SpaceX flight.
It will be the first time that a private company, rather than a national government, has sent astronauts into orbit.
NASA test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to Florida from their Houston base of operations aboard one of the space agency’s planes.RELATED
“It is an incredible time for NASA and the space program, once again launching US crews from Florida and hopefully in just a week from now,” Hurley told reporters minutes after arriving.
Hurley was one of four astronauts who arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on July 4, 2011 for the last flight of the space shuttle, “making it incredibly sobering to be here to begin the next launch from the United States.”
“We feel it as an opportunity, but also a responsibility for the American people, for the SpaceX team, for all of NASA,” added Behnken.
The two are scheduled to take off next Wednesday afternoon on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, bound for the International Space Station. They will rise from the same platform where Atlantis closed the shuttle program in 2011, the latest home launch for NASA astronauts.
Since then, the only way to the space station for astronauts has been on Russian rockets launched from Kazakhstan.
Hurley and Behnken still don’t know how long they will be on the space station: between one and four months. There is currently only one American, astronaut Chris Cassidy.
Greeting the astronauts on the former Kennedy Space Center shuttle runway were the director of the center, former shuttle commander Robert Cabana, and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“They really are a bright light for all of America right now,” Bridenstine told them.