NASA wants you along for the ride (virtually) on SpaceX's next astronaut mission

SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronauts — NASA's Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi — pose in front of their Dragon capsule, "Resilience," at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronauts — NASA's Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi — pose in front of their Dragon capsule, "Resilience," at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's first operational astronaut launch for NASA is just nine days away, and the agency is inviting the public to go along for the historic ride.

The Crew-1 mission is scheduled to lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on the evening of Nov. 14. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will send a Crew Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts — NASA's Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi — to the International Space Station for a six-month stay.

Crew-1 will be the first contracted mission SpaceX flies under a $2.6 billion deal it signed with NASA's Commercial Crew Program in 2014. The agency is obviously excited about this milestone, and it's taking pains to share that excitement with all of us.

SpaceX's Crew-1 astronaut mission: Live updates

"Members of the public can attend the launch virtually, receiving mission updates and opportunities normally reserved for on-site guests," NASA officials wrote in a statement on Tuesday (Nov. 3). 

"NASA's virtual launch experience for Crew-1 includes curated launch resources, a digital boarding pass, notifications about NASA social interactions and the opportunity for a virtual launch passport stamp following a successful launch," the agency added.

You can download a Crew-1 "launch passport" here, sign up for emailed mission updates here and register for social media updates here.

NASA has also compiled a teaching toolkit for Crew-1 that educators and parents can use to help get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math. You can find that resource here.

There will be a lot of activity to follow in the buildup to the Nov. 14 launch. The Crew-1 astronauts will arrive at KSC on Nov. 8, for example, and NASA will hold a "Crew-1 social media engagement" on Nov. 9 at 1:15 p.m. EST (1815 GMT). 

The agency also plans to conduct a media teleconference on Nov. 9 to discuss results of the Crew-1 flight readiness review. The time has yet to be determined; the teleconference will occur no earlier than an hour after conclusion of the review, which could stretch into Nov. 10, NASA officials said.

A prelaunch news conference will be held on Nov. 12, also at a time to be determined. And NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other notables will participate in a "countdown clock briefing" on Nov. 13 at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).

NASA TV coverage of the Crew-1 launch will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT) on Nov. 14. Launch is scheduled for 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 GMT on Nov. 15), and Crew Dragon will dock with the space station around 4:20 a.m. EST (0920 GMT) on Nov. 15.

A welcome ceremony for the four newly arrived astronauts will be held aboard the International Space Station at about 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Nov. 15. Around 20 minutes later, NASA will hold a post-docking news conference featuring Bridenstine and a number of other prominent officials.

You can find all of these Crew-1 coverage details and more here

Crew-1 will be SpaceX's second astronaut mission to the space station, after the Demo-2 test flight, which launched on May 30 of this year. Demo-2 — the first orbital crewed flight to launch from the U.S. since the space shuttles retired in 2011 — sent NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the station for a two-month stay.

Like SpaceX, aerospace giant Boeing signed a commercial crew deal with NASA in 2014. Boeing will fulfill its contract, which is worth $4.2 billion, with a capsule called CST-100 Starliner. But Starliner isn't ready to fly astronauts yet; it must first ace an uncrewed test flight to the space station. Starliner already tried this once, in December 2019, but the capsule suffered a glitch and got stuck in an orbit too low to allow a rendezvous with the station.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.