Center spatial Kennedy, Etats-Unis, 26 May 2020 (AFP) – Florida had a cloudy day on Tuesday (26), the eve of the planned launch of a SpaceX rocket with two astronauts on board, on the most dangerous and dangerous mission. high level already entrusted by Nasa to a private company.
Despite the adverse weather conditions in this southeastern United States, the weather forecast for launch time is 60% favorable, according to the latest bulletin for Cabo Cañaveral.
After completing a strict two-month quarantine, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will crew the Crew Dragon capsule, which will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, a company founded in 2002 by visionary Elon Musk.
Creator of the Tesla electric cars, Musk made his fortune with PayPal and, obsessed with Mars, did not hesitate to launch himself into the space race.
The destination: the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits 400 km above sea level, at 27,000 km / h.
For the United States, the success of this mission will be a source of national pride, since since the last flight of a space shuttle, in 2011, the country has resorted to Russian rockets to travel into space, having lost its autonomy.
Neither the COVID-19 pandemic nor the imposed confinement to prevent the spread of the disease represented a brake on the launch.
American President Donald Trump will watch the long-awaited takeoff, being the third active agent to accompany a manned flight, after Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
"All of America will have the opportunity to see our country do something incredible again," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Tuesday.
The American space agency revived a logo dubbed "the worm", used in the 1970s, which will adorn the rocket with its red lines, a sign of the nostalgia for power and the race to conquer space.
SpaceX made history by becoming the first company to attach a capsule with provisions for the ISS in 2012. Two years later, NASA ordered to move forward to send astronauts, adapting the Dragon capsule for passenger transport.
Thus, he collaborated with Musk's original dream: "we put windows on the cargo version of Dragon", recalled on Monday the German Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of SpaceX.
"We founded (the company) with the idea of human space flight", he added, moved.
– Delays – The program, in which NASA has invested more than $ 3 billion, is three years behind schedule. Boeing is building the Starliner capsule separately, with an even longer delay.
After a successful flight of unmanned tests last year, a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a ground test of the thrusters. The development of the four large parachutes of the return capsule also experienced some setbacks.
But after thousands of reviews, NASA believes it is ready to take two of its astronauts on top of a 500-ton rocket full of fuel.
"We never feel comfortable because that's where we stop asking questions," said Kathy Lueders, head of NASA's commercial manned flight program. "We will be alert until Bob and Doug return home," he added.
– Russian guests -The climate remains the only uncontrollable variable. But "the trend is good," said Bridenstine, despite the rain that forced him to hold a press conference in a covered area and not in front of the big clock that does the countdown.
The decision to postpone the launch may take place up to 45 minutes before the launch, scheduled for 4:33 pm local time (5:33 pm Brasília). The next potential launch windows will be on Saturday and Sunday.
Once in orbit, the capsule with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will take 19 hours to dock with the station. The astronauts could stay there until the beginning of August.
The return trip will be like that of the Apolo capsules: it will fall into the sea, in this case in the Atlantic Ocean, in front of the Florida coast.
If the mission is successful, regular manned flights will begin. The trip of three Americans and a Japanese to the ISS is already scheduled for the end of August. In the next missions, European and Canadian partners will be invited.
The Russians, who built the ISS together with the Americans, agreed to maintain their former space association, which "really is above terrestrial geopolitics," according to Bridenstine.
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