Elon Musk’s SpaceX Set to Launch NASA Astronauts Into Space Today

The launch will be the first from US soil since 2011

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft attached sits on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on May 27, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Later today NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled to liftoff on an inaugural flight and will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft attached sits on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on May 27, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Later today NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled to liftoff on an inaugural flight and will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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By Bonnie Stiernberg / May 27, 2020 9:49 am

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is scheduled to launch two NASA astronauts into orbit this afternoon, becoming the first astronaut launch by a private firm as well as the first human launch from American soil since 2011.

The Crew Dragon capsule, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station, is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 4:33 p.m. EST today (Wednesday) — weather permitting. Forecasts predict a 50/50 chance of stormy weather in the area today, in which case the launch would be delayed to Saturday.

If it’s able to go off without a hitch, the launch will be especially notable because making the government “a customer rather than operator is as astonishing as it is bold for NASA,” Mark Albrecht, a former White House space adviser and retired senior industry executive, told the Wall Street Journal. “NASA will take the blame for failure and allow SpaceX to receive most of the glory of success.”

If its mission is successful, the Crew Dragon could usher in a new era of space travel for the United States. As the Journal notes, “If things go smoothly on the launchpad in Florida and throughout the return trip ending with a splashdown in the Atlantic, NASA hopes to swiftly approve SpaceX’s systems as space taxis that would ferry crews to and from orbit.”

You can watch coverage of the launch online here beginning at noon EST.

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