Backyard Observatory

Astronauts Are Heading to Space From U.S. Soil for the First Time in Almost a Decade

The historic mission is heading to the International Space Station with SpaceX.

crew dragon spacex nasa launch
Courtesy of SpaceX

A pair of NASA astronauts will make history in more than one way this month. They'll become the first-ever crew to be bound for the International Space Station (ISS) in a private American spacecraft. They'll also be the first astronauts taking off from US soil in almost 10 years when SpaceX's Crew Dragon launches on May 27

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will be the ones launching on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32pm EST at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Demo-2 mission will be the first crewed mission to fly from the US since the last space shuttle flight on July 8, 2011. That might not seem like it's that far back, but, at that time, LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" was the second biggest song of the year, and the last Harry Potter movie hadn't even been released yet.

Since NASA retired the space shuttle, US astronauts have flown to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 

It's not clear how long the astronauts will be aboard the ISS with the current crew that includes one NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts. The length of their stay will be determined after the craft docks at the orbiting science lab. Behnken and Hurley could be there for anywhere from a month to 119 days, per Space.com

It's a historic mission coming at a tumultuous time on the planet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The astronauts will be quarantined ahead of the launch, and NASA says it will be taking many precautions with the crew required to be at the Kennedy Space Center for the mission. Meanwhile, NASA is asking people not to flock to Florida to witness the launch. Instead, they're hoping people will stay home and stream the launch and docking live online. It's not quite the same, but it'll be an amazing sight nonetheless.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.
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