The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.
In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.
NASA has modified its $2.7 billion commercial crew contract with SpaceX to allow Elon Musk’s company to reuse Falcon 9 first stages and Crew Dragon spacecraft for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
The reuse of the boosters and spacecraft will begin with the second commercial Crew Dragon flight, which will likely be launched in 2021. The first commercial mission with four astronauts aboard is scheduled to launched on Aug. 30.
In return, SpaceX has agreed to extend the ongoing Crew Dragon Demo-2 flight test from two weeks to up to 119 days. The spacecraft, currently docked to the space station, was launched with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard on May 30.
The contract modification added the requirement for SpaceX to conduct joint training with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Operations Group Detachment 3 (DET-3) for the first six commercial Crew Dragon launches.
DET-3 forces are placed on alert at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii in case Crew Dragon astronauts need to be rescued due to a mishap.
Crew Dragon and its booster’s first stage are designed for reuse. A Falcon 9 first stage landed on an offshore drone ship on Thursday after launching for the fifth time. Cargo Dragon vehicles has flow to ISS multiple times.
UPDATE: The campaign ad has been removed from YouTube.
President Donald Trump’s new campaign commercial that focuses on America’s space program has spurred anger and might have broken the law by featuring NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon last week.
Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver tweeted:
Total politicization of @NASA, Bob, Doug & @SpaceX. Did they want to be used in a Trump campaign ad? Are these FEC [Federal Election Commission] & Hatch Act violations? “We are Americans & the future belongs totally to us” Really? Space should be healing, not dividing!
The Hatch Act limits the ability of federal employees to become involved in political activities. Behnken and Hurley are government employees because they work for NASA.
Hurley’s wife, former astronaut Karen Nyberg, is featured in the ad watching her husband and Behnken lift off aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster on Saturday. She tweeted:
I find it disturbing that a video image of me and my son is being used in political propaganda without my knowledge or consent. That is wrong. @nasa@JimBridenstine
NASA has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans. A petition titled, Stop Donald Trump politicizing SpaceX and NASA accomplishments, has been posted on Change.org.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla, (ISS National Lab PR) – At a time when so many feel isolated, the world came together with hopeful energy on Saturday to watch as two American astronauts were launched into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade—and for the first time ever onboard a commercially owned spacecraft.
The successful SpaceX Demo-2 launch and docking, which carried NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken from the Space Coast of Florida to the International Space Station (ISS), not only initiated a new era in American spaceflight but also rekindled the wonder and excitement of sending humans into space. Now, the two astronauts are getting to work in their new residence.
Video Caption: A historic bell ringing, 250 miles above Earth.
Today we recognized the achievements of our #LaunchAmerica mission with NASA Astronauts Chris Cassidy, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley who rung the captain’s bell onboard the International Space Station to open the day’s trading on June 2.
Behnken and Hurley arrived at the station on May 31, a day after becoming the first NASA astronauts to launch on a commercial rocket. The launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft marked the return of human launches from U.S. soil to the space station for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
The Crew Dragon arrived at the station’s Harmony port, docking at 10:16 a.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying about 262 miles above the northern border of China and Mongolia. Following soft capture, 12 hooks were closed to complete a hard capture at 10:27 a.m. Teams now will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening scheduled for approximately 12:45 p.m.
NASA Television and the agency’s website are continuing to provide live continuous coverage of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission.
Behnken and Hurley made history Saturday as they became the first Americans to launch on an American rocket from American soil to the space station in nearly a decade. Their successful docking completed many of the test objectives of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, and the rest will be completed as the spacecraft operates as part of the space station, then at the conclusion of its mission undocks and descends for a parachute landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Video Caption: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon lifts off at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. This marks the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. Part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, this will be SpaceX’s final flight test, paving the way for NASA to certify the crew transportation system for regular, crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory.
Video Caption: In this video, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley take viewers on a tour of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take them on a 19-hour-journey to their new home in orbit.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30 with the astronauts aboard for a mission to the orbiting laboratory. Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to gradually approach and autonomously dock with the International Space Station on Sunday, May 31, at approximately 10:29 a.m. EDT.