NASA, SpaceX counting down days to first human launch

While SpaceX founder Elon Musk is facing blistering criticism for calling stay-at-home orders “fascist”, officials representing his space company and NASA are trying to allay coronavirus fears. They said Friday that in the run-up to a historic space launch slated for May 27, they are employing additional safety measures to keep their two astronauts, mission control crews and the spacecraft virus free.

This revelation comes despite Musk’s repeated statements and tweets railing against county authorities in California in the United States after authorities there extended stay-at-home orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through May 31.

Starting late Tuesday night, Musk, who is also the CEO of the California-based Tesla, initiated his ongoing Twitter storm, tweeting “Give people their freedom back!” That was followed Wednesday by an expletive-laden rant on the Telsa earnings call.

During a NASA telephone press conference on Thursday, when a reporter asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for comment on Musk’s statements on social-distancing orders, Musk reportedly butted in – before Bridenstine could answer – and told the reporter, “wrong press conference. Move on.”

In March, at least a dozen SpaceX employees were quarantined because of their exposure to COVID-19.
In just a few weeks, NASA and SpaceX plan to launch NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley in a Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center – the fist time humans will blast off from the United States since the NASA shuttle programme was halted nine years ago.

Behnken and Hurley’s flight, Demo-2 Mission, is a final test before Crew Dragon spacecraft is certified for human spaceflight. Once they reach orbit, the astronauts will dock with the International Space Station (ISS), and join NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner for a stay of up to 119 days.

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