US space agency NASA and SpaceX have earmarked May 27 for resuming astronaut launches from the United States after almost a decade of complete Russian dependence.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX, will send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from the US state of Florida — marking the company’s first mission carrying humans.
“On May 27, NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil!” Mr Bridenstine tweeted.
BREAKING: On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil! With our @SpaceX partners, @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken will launch to the @Space_Station on the #CrewDragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Let’s #LaunchAmerica 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/RINb3mfRWI
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 17, 2020
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will blast off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, departing from the same Kennedy Space Centre launch pad used by shuttle Atlantis in July 2011, as well as the Apollo moonshots a half-century ago.
It will take the astronauts approximately 24 hours to reach the space station.
One American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts are currently aboard the ISS.
As with most high-profile missions, the new date could be revised in the weeks to come.
Astronauts haven’t launched into orbit from the US since NASA’s last space shuttle flight in 2011 and the agency has relied on Russia’s space program to ferry astronauts to the space station.
Only three countries have launched people into orbit since 1961: Russia, the US and China, in that order.
SpaceX would be the first private company to do so.
President Donald Trump had set the goal of landing on the moon by 2024 for the first time in half a century.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, is likely to delay NASA’s plans for another moon landing.
NASA said it had halted production and testing of its Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule due to the crisis.