Despite coronavirus, NASA and SpaceX aim to launch astronauts from KSC in May
One year after SpaceX launched a Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the company has shared high-definition views of the mission. Florida Today
2020欧洲杯正规平台Despite the continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, NASA on Friday said it plans to launch astronauts from Kennedy Space Center next month, the first time it's done so in nearly a decade.
"On May 27, NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," agency administrator Jim Bridenstine , finally adding specificity to a date long rumored to be in the late May timeframe.
2020欧洲杯正规平台If schedules hold, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center at 4:32 p.m. with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on a trip to the International Space Station, a feat not accomplished since the last space shuttle flight in July 2011. Since then, American astronauts have traveled to the ISS on Russian spacecraft.
2020欧洲杯正规平台A high-profile mission like this would be prone to delays caused by any number of technical or scheduling issues, but the fact that a pandemic has swept the globe adds even more uncertainty. According to the latest estimates, Florida will likely see its peak daily coronavirus cases sometime in the first week of May.
2020欧洲杯正规平台And it raises questions about how the Space Coast will absorb launch-viewing crowds in this era of social distancing. Past crewed launches from pad 39A have drawn hundreds of thousands to beaches, roadsides, piers, restaurants and bars, and more.
2020欧洲杯正规平台But some experts see NASA's mission as just that. After nine years of work, they say, America needs to send American astronauts back to the $150 billion International Space Station directly from U.S. soil. With no vaccine likely in the near-term, they say the nation's space industry needs to adjust and start putting humans back in orbit.
The local coronavirus factor
2020欧洲杯正规平台Between the pandemic, upcoming hurricane season, and now crewed flight from KSC, Brevard County and city officials will be active on several fronts.
"Up until today, our big concern was 'What are we going to do as far as hurricane season planning and if we had to shelter people during a hurricane,'" said Don Walker, Brevard County communications director. "Now we're going to have to figure out what we'll do with the arrival of masses of people to our county during a pandemic or at least the rebound from one."
Launch-related crowd control isn't new to the county, however, and Walker said plans were already underway to deal with heavy traffic.
2020欧洲杯正规平台"We're not totally caught off guard because we've already been planning for the first crewed launch, but we weren't planning for it in the throes of a pandemic," he said.
2020欧洲杯正规平台Recently released guidelines by the White House could offer a blueprint to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when it comes to possibly easing social-distancing requirements next month, though nearby attractions have already confirmed closures through May 31. But if that timeline does hold, the launch could be a "shot in the arm" for the area, according to Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis.
"Wouldn’t it be great if the beach parking was opened, the restaurants were reopened, and we had an ability to have people here watching the launch?" Cranis asked. "I just think that would be amazing if that timing could work out properly."
But he cautioned that the Space Coast's plan moving forward, "given the times that we're in, really remains to be seen."
South Brevard State Rep. Randy Fine, acknowledging that spaceflight is deemed an essential part of state and national business, expressed his own concerns about crowds.
2020欧洲杯正规平台"I'm disappointed that the county has taken this tourism friendly approach," Fine said. "In the middle of this crisis, I think it's a mistake to be open to coronavirus refugees."
Cocoa Beach hotelier Bob Baugher, meanwhile, welcomed the launch news, but remained skeptical as to whether the economy would reopen by the target launch date.
2020欧洲杯正规平台“We’re 40 days off. Things could change so much in 40 days. If you look back the last 40 days, things have changed so much,” Baugher said.
2020欧洲杯正规平台On the timeline, all agreed: nearly six weeks might be enough for Brevard and the state to prepare, but it's impossible to know at this point.