For Fear of Lightning, SpaceX Postpones its First Manned Flight

Tech News
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inside the Crew Dragon pod, before the postponement of the flight was announced.

This first manned flight from SpaceX, was to send the first Americans in 10 years from American Soil to the International Space Station.

After a day of suspense, the first manned flight of the American company SpaceX was postponed from Wednesday to Saturday 30th May 2020 because of bad weather, while two NASA astronauts were already installed in the capsule at the top of the rocket which was to launch them at the International Space Station.

“Dragon, SpaceX: unfortunately, we are not going to launch today,” SpaceX’s launch director announced to the astronauts 17 minutes before the scheduled takeoff time at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Too much electricity in the atmosphere”

“It was a great team effort, we understand,” said astronaut Doug Hurley, who had been inside for more than two hours, strapped into his seat with teammate Bob Behnken, atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

It took ten minutes for the bad weather to dissipate, namely thunderstorms and lightning in the area, and the presence of a thick cloud called cumulonimbus that can cause lightning when the passing rocket, as happened, without consequence, to the astronauts of Apollo 12 in 1969.

But safety first, said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator: “There was too much electricity in the atmosphere.”

The shooting window, 4.33 p.m., was reduced to this exact hour, in order to coordinate Dragon’s orbit with that of the ISS.

The next attempt will take place on Saturday at 3:22 p.m. (7:22 p.m. GMT).

Presence of Donald Trump

“Everyone is surely a little disappointed,” said Doug Hurley later, sympathizing with the ground teams, who have been waiting for this moment for years.

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley should have docked at the ISS on Thursday.

Donald Trump came to witness in person what NASA calls the dawn of a new space era, where the United States entrusts the transport of its astronauts to the private sector, and at the same time regains access to space that they lost in 2011 with the stop of the space shuttles.

But by postponing the flight, SpaceX has not drawn the wrath of the American president, who tweeted that he would return on Saturday.

Despite the temporary disappointment, this milestone is the embodiment of 18 years of effort for SpaceX.

“We did everything to get your dads back”

“It’s a dream come true, I never thought it would ever happen,” said Elon Musk, who founded the company with a few employees in 2002 in California, before the scheduled launch.

Before boarding the capsule, the astronauts had said goodbye to their families that they planned to leave for several months.

To their two young sons, Elon Musk had promised: “We have done everything we can to get your dads back.”

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the flight was maintained and tourists and enthusiasts had settled on the beaches of the coast of Florida including the famous Cocoa Beach.

“I was there nine years ago with my son for the last launch of a shuttle, I was really looking forward to feeling the ground shake again under my feet,” lamented June Steding, from Orlando.

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