Miami, May 14 (efe-epa).- NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the first manned launch in the United States since 2011.
The aerospace agency described the mission as a “new era of human spaceflight” as it will see American astronauts travel into orbit from US soil for the first time in nine years.
Crew Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley started a two-week isolation period on Wednesday in preparation for their takeoff on 27 May.
NASA said in a statement: “Due to the coronavirus pandemic, people all over the world recently have experienced varying degrees of quarantine – a period of isolation from others to prevent the spread of contagious illness.
“However, for crews getting ready to launch, ‘flight crew health stabilization’ is a routine part of the final weeks before liftoff for all missions to the space station.”
The Demo-2 mission launch is scheduled for 4:33 pm local time ( 20:33 GTM) on 27 May from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Behnken and Hurley will fly to the ISS on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft after lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket.
The pair were given the choice of quarantining at home with their families or of going into isolation at the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
NASA has taken extra precautions to protect the crew from Covid-19, including testing the team that will work with the astronauts during the launch, as it will be impossible for them to maintain a two-metre distance.
The “flight crew health stabilization” procedures were introduced during the Apollo programme, which saw the human being first set foot on the Moon, and has been maintained on all trips to the ISS since then.
Nine years have passed since NASA decommissioned its space shuttle program, with the agency paying Russia to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station since then.
This launch, which marks the first manned space travel with SpaceX, will demonstrate the capabilities of the company’s rocket and shuttle system for future commercial space travel.
SpaceX owner Elon Musk and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine have both announced the objective of returning to the Moon and eventually sending a manned mission to Mars. EFE