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.
"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.
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 (opens in new tab)" (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.