Launch Postponed

Associated Press

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken wave Wednesday as they walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit has been called off with 16 minutes to go in the countdown because of the danger of lightning.

Liftoff is rescheduled for Saturday.

The spacecraft was set to blast off Wednesday afternoon for the International Space Station, ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight and putting NASA back in the business of launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.

Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian rockets to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

Space veterans Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were scheduled to ride into orbit aboard the brand-new Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, taking off for the International Space Station at 4:33 p.m. EDT from the same launch pad used during the Apollo moon missions a half-century ago.

Smiling, waving and giving the traditional thumbs-up, the two men said farewell to their families — exchanging blown kisses and pantomiming hugs for their young sons from a Coronavirus-safe distance — before setting out for the pad in a gull-wing Tesla SUV, another product from SpaceX’s visionary founder, Elon Musk.

Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrived to watch the liftoff.

The flight would mark the first time a private company sent humans into orbit.

It would also be the first time in nearly a decade that the United States launched astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil. Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

With two-and-a-half hours to go before liftoff, controllers put the chances of launch at just 40 percent because of thunderstorms at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Thunder could be heard as the astronauts made their way to the pad, and a tornado warning was issued moments after they climbed into their capsule.

In the event of a postponement, the next launch opportunity would be Saturday.

The preparations took place in the shadow of the Coronavirus outbreak that has killed an estimated 100,000 Americans.

“We’re launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. We haven’t done this really since 2011,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

Musk, wearing a mask and keeping his distance, chatted with the two NASA astronauts just before they left for the launch pad. The mission would put Musk and SpaceX in the same league as only three countries — Russia, the U.S. and China, which sent astronauts into orbit in that order.

“What today is about is reigniting the dream of space and getting people fired up about the future,” he said in a NASA interview.

(1) comment

Jimzan

Look at this statement: "The preparations took place in the shadow of the Coronavirus outbreak that has killed an estimated 100,000 Americans." that's how a Democrat weasel instills fear, when the opportunity arises...Remember that come Nov 3rd

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