NASA and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida have welcomed the two astronauts who, next Wednesday, are scheduled to head to space, becoming the first humans to do so from U.S. soil in nine years.
NASA test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived from their home base in Houston aboard one of the space agency's jets Wednesday. They will also make history as the first astronauts to go into space in a privately-funded spacecraft.
The two are scheduled to blast off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, bound for the International Space Station.
Hurley was a crew member on the final shuttle flight launched from the space center July 4, 2011. He told reporters it was “incredibly humbling” to be there for the restart of manned space launches from the United States.
Behnken called it “an opportunity but also a responsibility for the American people, for the SpaceX team, for all of NASA.”
Hurley and Behnken are scheduled to dock at the International Space Station on the 28th. The two still don’t know how long they’ll spend at the space station. Only one American, Chris Cassidy, is there now.
Since the end of the shuttle program in 2011, the only way to the orbiting outpost has been on Russian rockets launched from Kazakhstan.