Highly anticipated: After months and years of preparation, SpaceX and NASA are finally ready to take a major leap forward in the space industry. SpaceX's Crew Dragon rocket has had its fair share of troubles over time, but it's finally stable enough to launch two astronauts (Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken) up to the International Space Station.
It won't be a long trip, with the astronauts scheduled to return home after about 14 days on the ISS. However, it will be an important moment for SpaceX nonetheless. It will prove that not only is the Crew Dragon capsule itself viable for space transport, but also that the company is equipped to handle the stressful burden that comes with safely transporting human beings to space and back.
BREAKING: On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil! With our @SpaceX partners, @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken will launch to the @Space_Station on the #CrewDragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Let's #LaunchAmerica 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/RINb3mfRWI— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 17, 2020
The launch is now scheduled for May 27, after a couple of delays. It'll be the first crewed mission launched by NASA in quite some time, and we'll be following it closely -- there's a lot riding on this mission's success. If it works out, SpaceX will be allowed to start performing more regular crew transportation missions between the ISS and Earth. The first "proper" mission of that nature is tentatively set to take place later this year.
That mission will transport four astronauts (for now; more could be added later) to the ISS for a six-month-long mission, but it will likely be delayed or canceled outright if this upcoming crewed launch test doesn't go well.
However, we have no reason to assume the worst: after a few early missteps, the Crew Dragon spacecraft has aced its more recent tests, and it seems to fairly safe now. Either way, be sure to stay tuned on May 27: we'll likely be covering the craft's first true launch live, and we'll do our best to provide access to the official livestream, or a recording.