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Countdown is on for tomorrow’s launch of Humans from Kennedy Space Center

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In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 photo made available by NASA, astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken pose in front of a Tesla Model X car during a SpaceX launch dress rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The NASA astronauts rode to the pad in the electric vehicle made by Elon Musk’s company. (Kim Shiflett/NASA via AP)

Weather permitting, SpaceX will launch two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station Wednesday afternoon from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Right now there is a 60% chance the weather will cooperate and the launch will go off as planned. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will become the first astronauts to launch to orbit from American soil since the space shuttle was retired back in 2011. On launch day, the Falcon 9 rocket will send the two astronauts on a 19-hour orbital chase of the International Space Station, where they will join the three-person crew of Expedition 63 on Thursday (May 28).

Behnken and Hurley will spend anywhere from one to four months on board the orbiting laboratory, depending on how well their Crew Dragon spacecraft fares and on the status of another Crew Dragon spacecraft that launch the first operational Crew Dragon mission to the space station, called Crew-1. President Trump and Vice President Pence are expected to attend Wednesday’s launch at the Kennedy Space Center. Liftoff is set for 4:33 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. There is a one minute launch window opportunity. SpaceX’s first crewed mission will be epic and historic. But, despite what you may have heard, it doesn’t mark the return of human spaceflight to American soil. The suborbital space tourism company Virgin Galactic notched that milestone on Dec. 13, 2018, during a rocket-powered test flight of its VSS Unity space plane. Pilots Mark Stucky and C.J. Sturckow took Unity to a maximum altitude of 51.40 miles (82.72 kilometers) on that mission.