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’Anything is possible’: Hear from the first astronauts to take off from American soil in nine years

HOUSTON – America watched NASA Commercial Crew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley leave Earth on a vehicle that had never been flown with humans onboard.

Hurley and Behnken spoke with KPRC2′s Rose-Ann Aragon and they have a special message for Space City.

May 30, 2020, was, for many people, representative of hope for the American people. The SpaceX Demo-2 launch was a feat lead by SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon, which Hurley and Behnken named, “Endeavour,” that launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Behnken, the Joint Operations Commander, and Hurley, the Spacecraft Commander, had one main goal: to test out the Crew Dragon capsule for future crews in order to get it certified by NASA for future flights. The Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 launched Saturday, May 30th at 2:22 p.m. following a scrub on Wednesday.

After a 19-hour rendezvous, including two portions where Hurley took manual control, the two made it to The International Space Station to meet Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy, who had been the only American at the ISS for a while.

A day later, Behnken and Hurley spoke with KPRC2′s Rose-Ann Aragon who asked them about their message to Space City: the home to human spaceflight and the place where Houstonians and those from Timber Cove, Clear Lake, Nassau Bay and Webster have seen them grow as people, fathers and astronauts.

“For both of us...the Houston area is where we call home now, and it certainly is true that the home of Johnson Space Center, the home of human spaceflight, takes seriously that that’s our home. The home of human spaceflight,” Behnken said. “We have excellent support there. I had a parade of...socially distancing individuals lining my neighborhood in the half-mile or so as I departed to Ellington Field to head down to Florida, and I know that I just had wonderful support. To all our family and friends at home, thank you guys from everything, and we couldn’t have done it without you.”

Hurley also has a few words to share.

“You know, just never quit what you’re doing. This was an extremely long road for Bob and I. We last flew in 2010 and 2011," Hurley said. “When NASA stopped flying Shuttles, it was in the middle of 2011 and it’s just taken that hard work and dedication over the last almost nine years to get us where we’re at now: back (to) launching from the United States. Back at Space Station, docking through the front of Space Station where Shuttle used to dock. I would just say, take a message from NASA in that anything is possible. You know, we’ve had a rough couple of months and just to be able to show the country what the agency is made of, what the Commercial Crew Program did and what SpaceX did, I hope they take some pride and a sense of accomplishment from seeing that.”

Even Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy, who had been patiently waiting for Hurley and Behnken, felt the magnitude of the moment when he saw his colleagues close to the International Space Station.

“We were just cheering. We flew directly over the International Space Station just two minutes before launch. Got some nice pictures of the launch pad," Cassidy said. "It struck me that little tiny dot was going to be fixed to a piece of metal that was about 15 meters from where I was standing, so to speak. They came up to our same altitude, I cracked open the window to get picture, and I realized that inside that spacecraft were two of my colleagues and friends and they’re going 17,500 miles an hour and we’re going 17,500 miles an hour.”

Hurley and Behnken will help Cassidy with maintenance and research at the ISS. As for the journey, Hurley and Behnken said the vehicles were smooth for the most part except for the second-stage booster.

“Totally different than shuttle," Hurley said. “It was smooth. It got a little rougher (during the booster) as Bob had mentioned before.”

They gave the revolutionary SpaceX suits top marks as well.

“We’d have to give the suits a 5-star rating,” Behnken said.

"They are custom designed and custom-fitted--much easier to get in and out of in 0G," Hurley said.

Now, they will continue to test the Crew Dragon, its response and capabilities, especially when they go back to Earth. They will also be taking back to Earth an American flag they left from a previous mission.

“Chris had it on the Hatch right where we left it nine years ago,” Hurley said. “And Chris had a note, ’Don’t forget to take it to Earth with Crew Dragon.”

Hurley said that flag represents bringing launches back to American soil. They don’t know quite when they will be returning, but the trio are happy to be united in space.