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Explorit: NASA’s manned launch from U.S. soil on May 27

By Vinita Domier
Special to The Enterprise

Solar System Ambassador and Davis Astronomy Club Coordinator

On Wednesday, May 27, at 1:33pm, NASA is scheduled to launch the first manned spacecraft from the USA since the final Space Shuttle Atlantis mission in 2011. Blasting off from the launch complex at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center that was previously used for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission will rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, May 28, at around 8:30 a.m.

NASA has contracted SpaceX, a California-based private company, to shuttle cargo and crew from Florida to ISS and back. Since 2012, SpaceX has been successfully delivering supplies to ISS using its own designed, manufactured, and reusable Dragon cargo spacecraft and two-stage Falcon 9 rocket that take off from KSC’s Launch Complex 39A leased by the company from NASA.

SpaceX’s next generation Crew Dragon spacecraft is designed to carry up to 7 passengers and is presently contracted to ferry astronauts to ISS under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. After a successful Demo-1 non-piloted test flight in 2019, the Demo-2 mission will be the first manned flight for the Crew Dragon with veteran NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken onboard testing the spacecraft.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous and autonomously dock to ISS in about 19 hours after launch at an altitude of approximately 220 miles above the Earth. Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken will join the three ISS crew members for the next two to three months. At the conclusion of the mission, the Crew Dragon with the two astronauts onboard will autonomously undock from ISS. The crew and spacecraft will be recovered by SpaceX from Florida’s Atlantic coast after Earth re-entry and subsequent splash-down.

Due to the current pandemic, the astronauts, their families, and the launch-and-support crew have been kept under tight quarantine. Also, there will be no public viewing for this historic event at KSC. Instead, everyone is encouraged to stay home and watch the launch live on NASA TV or online at http://www.nasa.gov/live. The live views from the launch pad will begin at 9am on May 27 and will provide continuous coverage through the Crew Dragon docking to ISS on May 28, and subsequent hatch opening and welcoming ceremony. There are also Crew Dragon mission updates posted at http://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew. 

NASA has also uploaded a short educational video about the Commercial Crew Program at http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6fCa4ReHX4 and SpaceX has posted a brief engaging video animation of the Crew Dragon mission at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZlzYzyREAI&feature=youtu.be.

Also available online is SpaceX’s free simulator at http://iss-sim.spacex.com, where a wannabe astronaut can manually pilot the Crew Dragon spacecraft to simulate docking to ISS using controls of the actual interface that NASA astronauts train on.

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Explorit’s coming events:

* Do you value science education for children in our community? Explorit Science Center has been providing hands-on science opportunities in Davis for 38 years! Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income. Now is a great time to consider a donation to help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: http://www.explorit.org/support/make-a-donation

* Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member. Membership grants you free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits. For more information or to purchase or renew your membership visit www.explorit.org/join/membership-levels or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.

* We are monitoring the situation surrounding COVID-19 and recommendations for health and safety. We are still taking Summer Science Camp registrations, and have several spaces still available. Modifications to space and class size may occur to ensure the health and safety of campers. Any changes to camp information will be sent out to current registrants and posted on our website before the end of May. Registration is available online at http://www.explorit.org/programs/summer-camp/summer-and-vacation-classes.

* To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Explorit will be closed until public health restrictions have been lifted or eased. Our staff is working remotely and will be answering emails, please contact us at [email protected] with any questions. We are not currently accepting recycled material donations.

— Explorit Science Center is at 3141 Fifth St. For information, call 530-756-0191 or visit , or “like” the Facebook page at .

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