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NASA and 'Kerbal Space Program' challenge gamers to recreate historic SpaceX launch to space station

The mission profile for SpaceX's Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station launching astronauts on May 27, 2020.
The mission profile for SpaceX's Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station launching astronauts on May 27, 2020.
(Image: © SpaceX)

It's safe to say NASA is pumped up for SpaceX's historic Crew Dragon launch. After all, the planned May 27 liftoff will mark the first time American astronauts will launch to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on an American spacecraft since 2011. 

To mark that event, NASA and Private Division — folks behind the upcoming space game "Kerbal Space Program 2" — are looking for gamers with the right stuff. The challenge: Recreate the SpaceX mission in the original "Kerbal Space Program." 

According to our friends at PC Gamer, Private Division threw down the first gauntlet on Twitter. 

"Kerbonauts, we have a mission for you!," the game publisher wrote. "We challenge you to simulate the mission and share your footage by May 25 using #LaunchAmerica. We'll show NASA the best ones to see what they think!"

Related: In photos: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 test flight with astronauts

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Then NASA joined the challenge. 

"We love a good challenge," NASA wrote on Twitter. "Kerbonauts, show us your skills!"

As Private Division stated above, the deadline to enter is May 25 and players should use the hashtag #LaunchAmerica to submit their entries. Details of SpaceX's Demo-2 mission are available on NASA's mission page here.

NASA's 'Ride to Station Challenge'

NASA is also running a STEM contest of its own for the Demo-2 mission. The agency's "Ride to Station Challenge" calls on kids to build a virtual version of the mission using the agency's Rocket Science: Ride to Station App

To enter, kids need to start a mission by completing the Ride to Station app (where they'll select a crew, build a rocket and launch), then visit NASA's Crew Orbital Docking Simulation to create a space capsule docking game. Finally, kids can share a screenshot of the CODing Sim on social media with the hashtag #LaunchAmerica to enter. 

The deadline for NASA's "Ride to the Station Challenge" is May 19, with a winner to be selected on May 20. For more details on the challenge, visit NASA's website here.

SpaceX's Demo-2 decoded

SpaceX's Demo-2 mission will launch a Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule to ferry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. Liftoff is set for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT) from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

More: How SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsule works (infographic)

After launch, the Falcon 9's first-stage booster will return to Earth and land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Behkhen and Hurley will fly on to rendezvous with the space station and join three members of the outpost's current Expedition 63 crew. 

The station crew will perform a series of tests on the Crew Dragon capsule in the weeks that follow, with Behkhen and Hurley ultimately set to return to Earth and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, just off Florida's eastern coast, and be retrieved by a SpaceX recovery ship. 

The Demo-2 mission will follow a successful unpiloted Crew Dragon test flight in 2019. That mission, Demo-1, flew a mannequin named Ripley to the station in a SpaceX spacesuit. 

NASA astronauts have not launched to the space station from U.S. soil since the space agency retired its shuttle fleet in July 2011. Since then, NASA has purchased seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to send astronauts to the station. 

SpaceX is one of two companies with multibillion-dollar contracts to launch astronauts for NASA. The other company is Boeing, which has built its own Starliner spacecraft that launches on Atlas V rockets to do the job. 

Boeing has launched one uncrewed test flight of Starliner, but has yet to reach the space station. A second uncrewed test flight is expected sometime later this year.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

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