Stuck on Earth, the astronauts of SpaceX’s 1st crewed flight keep their spirits high
Two veteran NASA astronauts were still cheerful after bad weather scrubbed their historic launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley climbed aboard their spaceship today (May 27) just before 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) in anticipation of a launch 2.5 hours later. But with just minutes to go before launch, NASA and SpaceX personnel called off the flight because of three different weather concerns that could have interfered with a safe blast-off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“We could see some raindrops on the windows and just figured that whatever it was, was too close to the launch pad at the time we needed it not to be,” Hurley said after receiving details about the weather problems.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (center) and Bob Behnken smile as they walk across the Crew Access Arm to their Crew Dragon spaceraft during a launch attempt at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 27, 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX/Twitter)
“We understand that everybody’s probably a little bit bummed out,” he said. “It’s just part of the deal. Everybody was ready today, and we appreciate that and the ship was great. And we’ll do it again I think on Saturday.”
Ground personnel replied. “We concur, and appreciate your resilience sitting there in the vehicle for us.”
By the time the decision to scrub today’s launch was made, Behnken and Hurley had spent about 2.5 hours in the capsule. For Crew Dragon astronauts, the launch process is long, with plenty of hurry-up-and-wait.
Saturday’s procedure will unfold much as today’s did.
The astronauts’ day will begin with a meal about five hours before launch. Next, they were off to don the spacesuits that will protect them if an issue causes the capsule to depressurize during launch. During today’s launch attempt, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stopped by the suit-up room near the end of that process to speak with the astronauts.
Once they’re ready to head to the pad, the astronauts will head outside, wave goodbye to their families, and climb into NASA-branded cars for the brief drive over to the launch pad. Then it’s up the tower next to the rocket and through the crew access arm for final checks before climbing into the capsule.
SpaceX engineers fuel the Crew Dragon vehicle after astronauts are already onboard, hence the relatively early entry time compared to launch. Behnken and Hurley spent the hours between entry and the decision to scrub doing communications checks and other preparatory tasks.
But with under 20 minutes to go before the scheduled instantaneous launch attempt today, bad weather conditions forced the scrub, leaving the astronauts to continue waiting onboard while ground personnel emptied out the rocket’s partially-filled fuel tanks. That’s when mission personnel radioed over to the crew to offer an update on the scrub.
The duo were sanguine about spending more than an hour longer in tight quarters and looked ahead to the next launch attempt, on Saturday (May 30) at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT). If all goes well, the astronauts will spend even longer in the capsule then, since the flight to the International Space Station will take them about 19 hours.
“We got the easy job,” Hurley told ground crews.
“Nothing better than being prime crew on a new spaceship,” Behnken added.