2 astronauts travel from Houston to Florida before historic manned U.S. launch in 9 years next week

HOUSTON – Two astronauts will travel from Houston to Florida on Wednesday, a week before they will participate in the first manned launch from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will depart Ellington Field aboard a Gulfstream aircraft to travel to Kennedy Space Center. The pair will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. central time on the runway when they arrive.

“It’s an incredible time for NASA, the space program once again launching U.S. crews from Florida," said Hurley.

Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to travel to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission on May 27 at 3:33 p.m. central time.

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This will be the first manned launched of a spacecraft from U.S. soil since Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on July 8, 2011.

“We view it as an opportunity but also a responsibility to the American people,” said Behnken

The Demo-2 mission is aimed at testing the viability of the SpaceX crew transportation system, according to NASA officials. It is the final test before the system can be certified for regular commercial crew flights.

Neighborhood preparing a grand sendoff for astronauts

Families from Behnken’s community in Taylor Lake Village planned a big sendoff for him.

“For the neighborhood, it’s really fun when one of your neighbors is about to fly in space,” said Pete Hasbrook.

The neighborhood has a rich NASA history.

“It’s a very special neighborhood because it was basically formed to support NASA,” said Pat Brant.

Even the community pool is the shape of the original mercury capsule.

Residents waved flags and signs as Behnken left the neighborhood to Ellington Field Wednesday.

Hasbrook has worked with NASA for decades and knows how important the mission is.

“This commercial launch program is really important to us as a station and international community to rotate our astronauts to bring more business to station and more science to station,” said Hasbrook.