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NASA veterans and long-time friends crew first manned SpaceX flight

The two NASA astronauts who will climb into the Demo-2 capsule atop the SpaceX Dragon rocket for Wednesday’s historic mission are launch veterans: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. They will lift off from the same launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center that hoisted the crew of Apollo 11 to the moon.

Behnken was an experienced Air Force test pilot when he was first selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps in 2000. He last visited space on a shuttle mission in 2010. He spent 708 hours in space with 37 of those taken up by spacewalks.

In the time since his last flight, Behnken became a father. On May 12, he tweeted he had to get his son’s approval before launch.

“After having a child and being a father, there is a different level of preparation both to share the mission with my son, which is something I’m super excited to have the opportunity to do,’ said Behnken. “Of course he’s only seen that pictures and video from before he was born, from my previous missions. But certainly, there is risk associated with a mission like this as we go forward. But I do want him to know that is a mission that I feel strongly about. It’s going forward in a way that I think is important for us as humans, but as Americans as well and I want him to be proud of his father as we go forward with the mission.”

Hurley, Behnken’s partner on this mission, is a retired Marine colonel who also joined the astronaut corps in 2000. Hurley flew in 2011 on NASA”s final shuttle mission aboard Atlantis, so it is rather poetic that one of the last astronauts to launch from U.S. soil will be of the first to do so in nine years.

"It’s neat for me because it has been such a long road, and it’s been a journey, a personal journey right along with NASA’s journey to transition from the space shuttle era to this next era of space flight for NASA and the United States for that matter,” Hurley said. “And so, it’s hard to believe in some ways. When somebody says it, you’re like, ‘Well, that can’t possibly be me,’ but it looks like it’s going to be so we take it on board just like anything else and, you know, probably do a lot more thinking about it when we get back than now.”

“We are certainly focused on our jobs to make this a very successful mission," he said.

SPECIAL SECTION: Launch America

This, by the way, is the first time Behnken and Hurley have flown together. And like his counterpart, Hurley’s son had a say about his dad flying into space. His son gave his OK.

The two astronauts enjoy quite a bond. Not only were they in the same astronaut class and train together, but they have also enjoyed a long friendship. They met their future spouses at the same time and attended each other’s weddings. Hurley was Behnken’s best man.


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