First Astronauts To Go To ISS From US Soil In A Decade

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Rachel Nelson, Editor-In-Chief

It’s been nearly a decade since someone was sent into space from US soil, since NASA’s Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011. But on May 27, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are being sent up to the International Space Station. They will lift off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. 

Hurley and Behnken are both former military test pilots and veteran astronauts. They will be the first crewed mission for SpaceX since it was founded 18 years ago. 

Due to COVID-19, there will be no spectators lining the beaches and viewing sites. The crowds have been a normal occurrence for nearly every crewed US mission since Alan Shepard in 1961. There are only a limited number of reporters allowed on site, and NASA said it will not host any members of the public. 

NASA has shut down all operations except for those pertaining to the International Space Station. 

“NASA is continuing to press ahead [during coronavirus] because there is a profound obligation to keep the space station operational,” said Dale Ketchman, the VP at Space Florida. 

The ISS has continually hosted a rotating crew of astronauts from all over the world since 2000. But since 2011, Russia has been the only country capable of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS. 

NASA has paid up to $86 million per seat and about $55.4 million on average to fly US astronauts aboard Russian spacecrafts. 

The companies SpaceX and Boeing were each given billions of dollars in 2014 to make crew-worthy spacecraft, but development has taken longer than expected.

Hurley and Behnken will spend as many as 110 days both in space and aboard the ISS before they will be returning to Earth.