On the eve of his historic launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, NASA astronaut Bob Behnken got ready for the big day by launching a rocket of his own — one that's nowhere near the size of the Falcon 9 rocket he'll ride to orbit.
Behnken and co-commander Doug Hurley were scheduled to lift off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station on Wednesday (May 27) at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT), but the launch was scrubbed about 17 minutes before liftoff due to bad weather conditions. If their second launch attempt on Saturday (May 30) works out, it will be the first time NASA astronauts have flown to the orbiting lab in a commercial spacecraft and the first time astronauts have launched to orbit from the United States in nearly a decade.
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of prelaunch preparations, Behnken hit the beach on Tuesday (May 26) and launched a model rocket. Later that evening, he tweeted a photo of what appears to be a version of an Amazon model rocket by Estes lifting off from a sandy launch pad on Florida's Atlantic coast.
According to Estes, the Amazon model rocket stands about 30 inches (76 centimeters) tall and can reach heights of up to 650 feet (200 meters). For comparison, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket booster stands 229.6 feet (70 m) tall and can soar more than 150 miles (240 kilometers) above the Earth — more than 1,000 times higher than Behnken's toy rocket.
But Behnken didn't spend all of his last day on Earth playing in the sand. "The day before our launch on the @NASA/@SpaceX Demo Mission 2, I took the time to review pre-launch activities, hone my launch operation technique, practice one more docking with @Space_Station https://iss-sim.spacex.com, and review the path home," Behnken tweeted, referring to SpaceX's virtual Crew Dragon docking simulator. "We are ready!"
.@JimBridenstine and I got to give @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug one last fist bump before they become the first astronauts to launch on a commercially made American rocket! #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/R0D78OApNkMay 26, 2020
Earlier on Tuesday, Behnken and Hurley were spotted exchanging fist bumps with NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and deputy administrator Jim Morhard. "@JimBridenstine and I got to give @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug one last fist bump before they become the first astronauts to launch on a commercially made American rocket," Morhard tweeted.
You can watch Behnken and Hurley launch to the space station live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. Liftoff is scheduled for Saturday at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT), and NASA will provide live coverage of the mission beginning at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
- In photos: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 test flight with astronauts
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.
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