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SpaceX and NASA break down what their historic first astronaut mission will look like

NASA and SpaceX’s most defining moment of our current space era is coming up at the end of this month, with its Demo-2 mission on May 27. The mission will be the first-ever launch for SpaceX with humans on board, and for NASA, it’ll mark the first return to U.S.-based astronaut launches since the Shuttle program flew its last flight in 2011. On Friday, representatives from both SpaceX and NASA briefed the media on the mission and the specifics of what it will involve when astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley board the Crew Dragon for its debut crewed performance.
The first thing to note about this mission is that it’s still technically a test, as noted in the “demo” name. This is the capstone demonstration in a series of such missions that will fully human-rate the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 for operational use. As noted during today’s press briefings, a big chunk of the actual human rating process occurs during this final mission — in fact, the majority of the actual final human rating happens on this flight, despite the many years of preparation and live tests to date, including the Demo-1 mission, which was essentially a full round-trip flight, just without any astronauts on board.
Even though it’s technically a demonstration, the stakes couldn’t be higher — SpaceX has a lot to prove here, and it bears the utmost responsibility in terms of keeping Behnken and Hurley safe for the duration of the mission. Which, it turns out, is actually going to be longer than originally planned: NASA says the mission will last anywhere between 30 days and 119 days, depending on a few different factors, the most significant of which being how quickly the agency ends up being able to launch the first operational Commercial Crew mission, Crew-1, which will carry four astronauts, including two from NASA and one from Japan’s space agency. The Crew Dragon used on this Demo mission could technically remain on orbit for over 200 days, but the purpose of this mission was not originally intended to be staffing the International Space Station, though that’s now part of the plan as a sort of stretch goal.
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