BY: CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(ORLANDO) — The astronauts who are set to launch into orbit later this week in SpaceX’s second crewed mission have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center and are in their last days of preparation ahead of Saturday’s big launch.
“As you can imagine, we are very excited to be here in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center for the final days before our launch to the International Space Station,” Michael Hopkins, the commander of the mission, said at a news conference Monday.
“We’ve been here less than 24 hours, and in that time we have seen our rocket, we have seen our space vehicle Resilience, and we’ve seen our space suits,” he added. “For an astronaut, that’s considered a pretty good day.”
Last month, the crew announced that they were calling their spacecraft “Resilience” after a difficult year for a world that has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NASA SpaceX Crew-1 mission is scheduled to launch on Nov. 14 and is set to become the first operational flight for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The crew consists of Hopkins and his fellow NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
The Crew-1 mission comes on the heels of the successful launch and return of astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken this summer with the test Demo-2 mission that made history by bringing launch capabilities back to U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
On Monday, Hopkins said that bringing launch capabilities back to the U.S. and ending the nation’s dependency on Russia to send teams to the International Space Station (ISS) is “great for our country” and “great for the world — to have options in terms of getting into space.”
The astronauts are currently slated to stay aboard the ISS for six months to conduct science experiments as well as help with maintenance on the multibillion-dollar orbiting laboratory.
With the arrival of Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi, however, the ISS will be short one crew sleeping quarter — something the astronauts said their teams were looking to address on Monday. Hopkins said the current plan looks like he will be sleeping on the Crew Dragon spacecraft itself.
Despite the launch being slightly delayed to address an engine issue with the Falcon 9 rocket and uncertainty surrounding Tropical Storm Eta in the area, the astronauts on Monday expressed confidence that the Saturday launch would go forward as planned.
Glover, the pilot of the mission, is the only member of the crew who has not yet been to space. On Monday, he said the whole experience still feels “surreal.”
“I wake up and go, ‘I really am at Kennedy Space Center, and we really are less than a week from launch,'” he said. “I’m excited, I’m also focused … I have many jobs to do, and I want to do them well.”
The launch is currently scheduled for 7:49 p.m. ET on Saturday and will be broadcast live on NASA’s website.
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