Southern Tier Man is One of Two Astronauts on May 27 Launch
UPDATE: The launch on May 27 was scrubbed because of stormy weather conditions off the coast of Florida. It has been postponed to Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. ET.
NASA and SpaceX have joined forces to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time in nine years. The launch on May 27 will be led by two astronauts, one of whom was born and raised in New York's Southern Tier.
Douglas G. Hurley will be the spacecraft commander for the Demo-2 flight of SpaceX's CrewDragon spacecraft. He was born in Endicott, New York in 1966, but considers Apalachin his hometown. He graduated from Owego Free Academy in 1984, earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Louisiana's Tulane University in 1988, and became a fighter pilot and test pilot with the United States Marine Corps, where he served for over 24 years. Hurley was selected as an astronaut with NASA in 2000 and is married with one kid.
Hurley's jobs onboard the Crew Dragon will include launching, landing and recovering.
Hurley will be joined by the mission's joint operations commander Robert Behnken from St. Ann, Missouri, who will be in charge of rendezvous, docking, undocking and other activities once the craft reaches the ISS.
With this flight, NASA says "a new era of human spaceflight is set to begin," largely because something remotely similar to this flight hasn't been done in nearly a decade. The last space shuttle launch on U.S. soil was July 8, 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center. Ever since then, NASA astronauts have flown to the ISS on Russia's Soyuz rockets, according to Smithsonian Mag.
Hurley and Behnken have been training for this month's important flight, which will be the first manned flight for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. According to NASA, they have been working closely with others at NASA and SpaceX to develop the new systems, "which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with Boeing’s Starliner, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil."
The Crew Dragon will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket on May 27 at 4:30 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The spacecraft will reach roughly 17,000 mph and put the astronauts on target to meet up with the ISS after about 24 hours. Once they dock with the ISS, Hurley and Behnken will join the three astronauts currently onboard. and become part of the Expedition 63 crew. According to NASA, the Crew Dragon is capable of staying in orbit for about 110 days, but they have not decided how long it will be until the crew returns.
Some people, including former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, have criticized NASA and SpaceX for continuing to prepare for a May 27 launch despite the current coronavirus pandemic.
"I’m not sure risking so many lives to launch two people to the same place we’ve been going for 20 years should be prioritized,” Garver told The Atlantic. “The harm is being done now because keeping the [launch] date means everyone is working now."
But NASA's current administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNBC the mission is essential, and only about 350 employees are still going to work, while maintaining social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment and working in rotations.
“We need access to the International Space Station from the United States of America. Commercial Crew is the program that’s going to make that happen. It’s essential for our country to have that capability,” Bridenstine told CNBC. “We are going to move forward.”
NASA TV will have live coverage of the launch starting at 12:15 p.m. on May 27. After liftoff, there will be continuous coverage until the spacecraft is docked at the International Space Station.