UPDATE: The launch was postponed due to bad weather. Cloudy conditions forced operators to cancel the flight with less than 20 minutes to go before the scheduled launch time. SpaceX and NASA will now attempt the flight on Saturday at 3:22pm EST.
Today, the United States is making history: the first American spaceflight is jetting off beyond planet Earth for the first time since 2011.
Let's rewind a bit: back in 2011, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) put a stop to its shuttle program following cost and safety concerns. To ensure that American astronauts could reach the International Space Station, the United States has actually been paying Russia's space agency for, literally, rides.
Enter Elon Musk of Tesla fame: his other company, SpaceX, has been working with NASA to find a way to launch shuttles from American soil again. Today, that is finally happening: SpaceX will effectively become the very first private company to send folks to space.
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are the two veteran astronauts that will be leading the excursion. They are expected to take off today at 4:33pm ET from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The two have quarantined themselves for two weeks and got tested for COVID-19 twice already.
Not only will the astronauts be donning super cool looking custom-made spacesuits, but the rocket and capsule that they will be traveling in (the former is called Falcon 9 and the latter Crew Dragon) will be high-tech—think touchscreen and automation technology—because what else can you expect from Musk?
The mission, which doesn't have an official time frame but is expected to last at least a month, is for our space gurus to understand if SpaceX could actually function as a transportation system. Behnken and Hurley are tasked with the evaluation of the craft and will do some additional research once they reach the International Space Station.
As for us mere Earth-relegated mortals, we get to tune in to watch it all go down on television—major networks will be covering the event—or stream it from the comfort of our couch starting around NOON EST today right here.
With clear skies, our friends in Europe might even be able to see the launch in person: for a few minutes, from around 15 minutes after the launch (that’s around 9:48pm UK time), the mission will be visible in the evening skies. It’ll pass directly over the UK, France, Germany and parts of central and eastern Europe. It should be visible for UK viewers as a bright, moving light to the south-west.
In regular times, folks would be able to flock to Florida's Kennedy Space Center to watch the event live but the agency is urging everyone to follow social distancing guidelines and enjoy the show at home.
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