A test flight by the SpaceX Crew Dragon in August, carrying just two astronauts to and from the space station, marked NASA’s first human space mission launched from U.S. soil in nine years, following the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 .
In the following years, US astronauts had to hitchhike to enter orbit aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The Resilience crew includes Commander Mike Hopkins and two fellow NASA astronauts, mission pilot Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker. They will be joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who will make his third journey into space after previously flying the US shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.
Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX who is also the CEO of electric carmaker and battery maker Tesla Inc, probably won’t watch the Kennedy Space Center launch control room take off as usual, NASA officials said. Musk said on Saturday he “most likely” has a moderate case of Covid-19.
SpaceX and NASA conducted the contact tracing and determined that Musk had not come into contact with anyone who had interacted with the astronauts.
“Our astronauts have been in quarantine for weeks and they shouldn’t have had contact with anyone,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said Friday. “They should be in good shape.”
NASA contracted SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to develop competing space capsules to replace its shuttle program and wean the United States of reliance on Russian rockets to send astronauts into space.