US astronauts prepare for historic mission
The two astronauts who will test drive SpaceX's brand new rocketship are classmates, friends, veteran space flyers married to veteran space flyers and fathers of young sons. Together, they will end a nine-year drought for NASA when they blast into orbit next week from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Retired Marine Col. Doug Hurley will be in charge of launch and landing, a fitting assignment for the pilot of NASA's last space shuttle flight. Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, a mechanical engineer with six spacewalks on his resume, will oversee rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station. Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, are NASA's first test pilot crew in decades. While SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule and its escape system have already been demonstrated in flight _ with mannequins _ there are no guarantees. In spaceflight, there never are. Their flight will mark the return of astronaut launches to the U.S., the first by a private company.
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