Trump to Attend First Launch of Astronauts From US in Years

By Zachary Stieber

President Donald Trump will be watching in person when astronauts depart from Florida in the first launch from the United States since 2011.

The launch will take place on Wednesday at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.

Trump’s attendance was announced by the White House on Friday. The president told reporters earlier in the week he was thinking about going.

Trump said while signing a directive that led to the establishment of the Space Force that his administration “is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation.”

“The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers. But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” he added.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX developed rockets to ferry astronauts and equipment to the International Space Station, which orbits around the Earth. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket will take NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the station, which holds a rotating crew of astronauts representing Russia, the United States, and other countries, primarily in Europe.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on April 10, 2020. (SpaceX via AP)
The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, with its nose cone open to expose the docking mechanism, approaches the International Space Station’s Harmony module on March 4, 2019. (NASA via AP)

The rocket will accelerate to a speed of approximately 17,000 miles per hour, according to NASA. The trip will take about 24 hours.

The Crew Dragon capsule the rocket is propelling will dock at the station before being used in several months to carry the astronauts back to Earth. The capsule was tested in January.

SpaceX’s program revolves around reusing key components, including capsules and rockets.

American astronauts have been launching to the space station for the past nine years from Russian soil.

The new mission, deemed Demo-2, is “the final major step” to certify Crew Dragon for lengthy missions to the station.

NASA is preparing to utilize knowledge gained in the missions to land the first woman and next man on the Moon’s surface in 2024 as part of its Artemis program.

Visitors at Playalinda Beach look on as a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 11, 2019. (Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Images)
A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla on Feb. 6, 2018. (John Raoux/AP Photo)

“A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin,” the space agency said in a statement. SpaceX said it’s “returning human spaceflight to the United States with one of the safest, most advanced systems ever built.”

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence started traveling last month after a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the first trip since then not related to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.

Pence previously said he would attend the launch.

“It’s great to be in Florida because I’m going to be back in a week, because not too far from here, for the first time in almost 10 years, we’re going to send American astronauts back to space in American rockets from Kennedy Space,” Pence told reporters while visiting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday.

During a recent interview with Fox News, Pence added, “When that rocket goes off next week, it’ll remind the American people that even in the midst of the most challenging times, America still moves forward.”

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