In 2011, Marine Colonel Doug Hurley served as the pilot of the last U.S. space shuttle mission aboard the Atlantis. Upon their arrival, the United States has since used Russian rockets to send astronauts into the cosmos. But nearly ten years later, this is all about to change.
On April 17, NASA announced the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft, the first manned space vehicle to launch from U.S. soil since the Atlantis’ return. The mission will be commanded under Hurley alongside Air Force Colonel and Endeavour veteran Bob Behnken. The Shuttle is set to launch tentatively on May 27 and will be taking off from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida.
The two men have had their fair share of space time, both having gone to space at least two times. Behnken was aboard the Endeavour in 2008 and 2010, while Hurley served on the Endeavour in 2009 and the Atlantis in 2011. Being no stranger to the stars, the two men have been assigned the roles of joint commanders on the mission, with Hurley serving as the craft’s commander, responsible for the launch and landing of the rocket, while Behnken will be in charge of rendezvous and the docking and undocking of the vehicle at the space station.
Should the launch commence on May 27, as planned, this would also be the first time in history that NASA used a privately owned and operated spacecraft to send astronauts into orbit. The Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft are currently owned and operated by SpaceX, created by Elon Musk.
The May 27th mission, though monumental, is not the only plan for a U.S. vehicle to be launched from U.S. soil. NASA announced it is currently in a partnership with Boeing to create another manned space vehicle. However, this project was put on hold due to the setbacks Boeing suffered from the Starliner space craft.