X

All systems go for SpaceX and NASA in historic astronaut launch

The Demo-2 mission is the first crewed flight to space aboard a commercial spacecraft

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
SpaceX's Dragon
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All systems go for SpaceX and NASA

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are set to blast off aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft Wednesday. The mission, which NASA is calling Demo-2, is the first crewed flight to space aboard a commercial spacecraft in history -- making this mission one of the most significant in NASA's long legacy of spaceflight.

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Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley arriving to Launch Complex 39A in a Tesla hours before launch.

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The day before launch, the flight team performs final pre-flight checks of Falcon 9, Crew Dragon, and the ground support system ahead of the Demo-2 mission. 

SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft
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Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX's next-generation human space vehicle. They were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.

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In March 2020, at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully completed a fully integrated test of critical crew flight hardware.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
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Pre-flight testing includes flight suit leak checks, spacecraft sound verification, display panel and cargo bin inspections, seat hardware rotations and more.

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NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with touchscreens inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

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A static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket.
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A static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket.

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Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 in the hangar at Launch Complex 39A.

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A close-up of the Crew Dragon capsule, atop the Falcon 9 booster. Of course, it has to stand up before it can be blasted off the planet. 

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SpaceX tests its engines at a rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. With 16 specialized test stands, the facility validates every Merlin engine that powers the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and every Draco thruster that controls the Dragon spacecraft.

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Prior to tomorrow's launch of the #LaunchAmerica mission, SpaceX will brings the rocket horizontal to perform additional preflight checkouts.

Launch Complex 39A NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida
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On May 18, 2020, the Crew Dragon arrived to Launch Complex 39A in NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It's one of the agency's most storied launch sites, having sent the first astronauts to the moon and supported dozens of space shuttle missions.

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While NASA and SpaceX are touting these big milestones, there's another key advance getting less lip service: Astronauts are finally flying in style after a 40-year gap in tech

Over the last 39 years, almost all trips to space have been made on just two types of spacecraft: The workhorse Soviet/Russian Soyuz system and NASA's Space Shuttle (the exception is the Chinese space program, which has conducted six crewed launches of its Shenzhou spacecraft since 2003).

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