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Before second Crew Dragon attempt, NASA talks highest priorities for SpaceX launch

"Bob and Doug are our highest priority," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
Credit: AP
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken wave 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., Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The two astronauts will fly on a SpaceX test flight to the International Space Station. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Ahead of the second launch attempt for the historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, NASA leaders spoke about working around Florida's weather and the highest priorities for a safe, successful launch.

The first launch attempt was scrubbed Wednesday because of poor weather conditions in the area and atmosphere near Launch Pad 39A, which holds the Falcon 9 rocket topped by the Crew Dragon capsule. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are set to be the first Americans in nine years to launch to space from U.S. soil.

The last time American astronauts launched from the U.S. was in 2011 with Space Shuttle Atlantis.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined again by Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Nicole Mann during Friday morning's briefing. Bridenstine said while Florida's weather can be a challenge during the summer, scrubbing Wednesday's launch was not a setback.

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"We are going to launch American astronauts," he said. "And we will do it with...the priority being the safety of our astronauts."

The buildup to the historic launch is an exciting time, but Bridenstine said there will be no pressure to launch without the highest focus on safety.

"We're really leading the beginning of a space revolution," Morhard said. "We're at the dawn of a new age. It's much bigger than all of us."

Morhard echoed the words of Mercury Seven astronaut Deke Slayton by saying: "A good scrub is better than a bad launch any day."

One of the weather rules for a "go" for launch is not having lightning within 10 nautical miles of the area, which was reported ahead of T-0 on Wednesday.

Bridenstine also talked about considering not only a lightning storm in the area but also a launch triggering lightning.

"The launch itself could be a lightning bolt," he said.

Cabana also called spaceflight a "team sport" that achieves success with many different teams and organizations working together. The Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch is also historic because it involves NASA astronauts flying in spacecraft owned and operated by a commercial company: SpaceX.

"We cannot forget this is a test flight," Bridenstine said. "We're not in normal operations; we're learning. Bob and Doug are our highest priority."

Bridenstine said once Demo-2 with Hurley and Behnken is launched successfully, NASA and SpaceX will turn to the next steps for launch Crew-1. That crew of astronauts has already been announced: NASA's Shannon Walker, Victor Glover Jr. and Mike Hopkins and Japan's Soichi Noguchi.

When asked what Hurley and Behnken are probably doing as they await another launch attempt, Bridenstine said they're probably spending time at the crew quarters beach house with their families. Bridenstine said the duo started a new tradition for this launch by launching little homemade rockets from the beach.

Behnken shared some of his pre-launch activities on Twitter, saying he was practicing docking with the International Space Station with the SpaceX simulator. He also showed off a selfie with one of his homemade rockets.

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