Planetarium ready for new era of space flight

Ken Brandt Contributing columnist

			
				                                Brandt

Brandt

<p>NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley will be the first humans to fly a commercial spacecraft when they launch Wednesday on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule from Kennedy Space Center pad 39A. It will also mark the first time astronauts have launched from U.S. soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.</p>
                                 <p>Courtesy photo</p>

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley will be the first humans to fly a commercial spacecraft when they launch Wednesday on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule from Kennedy Space Center pad 39A. It will also mark the first time astronauts have launched from U.S. soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Courtesy photo

Until now, if you wanted to go to the International Space Station, you would need to ride a Russian Soyuz, launching from Kazakhstan.

The latest cost figure for the privilege, as of 2019, is $86 million dollars per astronaut! In terms I understand, that’s about seven new planetariums — and this has been going on since 2011. In fact, when Robeson County’s Astronaut Bill McArthur flew up to command the ISS in 2005, he did so on Russian rockets. By comparison, a seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon costs $55 million per seat. The last United States ride into space was provided by the Space Shuttle Atlantis back in 2011. This was the last shuttle mission.

If all goes according to plan, on Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. two astronauts will Launch in a SpaceX Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station.

A statement from NASA reads in part, “A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.”

SpaceX has put together some resources for the flight, including an online docking simulator. In this simulation, you can pretend to be an astronaut trying to dock Dragon with the ISS. Here is the URL if you want to try out your astronaut skills: https://iss-sim.spacex.com/.

In addition, the Robeson Planetarium will livestream the virtual SpaceX broadcast of the launch Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. We are also doing virtual Planetarium programs about the SpaceX missions on Saturday at noon, and Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. via Zoom. The login information for these programs are ID 460-184-4271, password 166884.