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A NASA astronaut launched a model rocket on eve of his own historic SpaceX launch

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken takes a selfie with a model rocket launching from Florida's Atlantic coast on May 26, 2020.  (Image credit: Bob Behnken/NASA/Twitter)

On the eve of his historic launch on a SpaceX (opens in new tab) Crew Dragon spacecraft, NASA astronaut Bob Behnken (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) were scheduled to lift off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on the Demo-2 mission (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) a photo of what appears to be a version of an Amazon model rocket by Estes (opens in new tab) lifting off from a sandy launch pad on Florida's Atlantic coast. 

Related: How to watch SpaceX's historic Demo-2 astronaut launch live online (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) 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!"

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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 (opens in new tab).

You can watch Behnken and Hurley launch to the space station live here on Space.com (opens in new tab), 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). 

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Hanneke Weitering
Hanneke Weitering

Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 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. 

  • krypt corpsis
    you better know if your on amphetamine everyone will make sure to make amphetamine impossible to get a hold of in space. not to mention since its illegal on earth there is no way amphetamine will ever be allowed anywhere in space. its going extinct no matter what people have to do.
    Reply