Liftoff Scheduled for 6:27 pm (cdt) Sunday, Nov. 15

This year has been a challenge in many ways, but for NASA and SpaceX things have been going very well! First, we had the manned launch last summer, with two astronauts being launched from American soil for the first time since the last shuttle launched in 2011. That mission was a huge success!

Now, four astronauts will launch today. Like the last manned mission, this trip is from Earth to the International Space Station (ISS). The trip will take about 25 hours. It would be much quicker if we could go straight there but we have to orbit the earth several times and then sling-shot toward the ISS.

The last mission in the summer was more experimental, taking Astronauts Behnken and Hurley on a test flight, so to speak. Today’s mission is the first operational mission for NASA. The vehicles are designed by SpaceX.

Normally, Elon Musk would be with everyone watchin the launch. Unfortunately, he is sick with Covid and can’t be around anyone. He is expected to fully recover in time.

Recovery of the boosters will take place nine minutes after launch. The platform, named “Just Read the Instructions”, is in position to gather the boosters when they return. When I’ve been down there the boosters always return to the platform named “Of Course I Still Love you.”

Among the many things the astronauts will do on the space station include studies on the human heart, brain, and organ functions. The knowledge gained from these studies in microgravity is applied to life here on Earth, helping make way for new medical advances.

They will study tissue chips. Tissue chips are thumb drive-sized devices that contain human cells in a 3D matrix, simulating the functions of an organ. They represent a giant leap in the ability of scientists to test how those cells respond to stresses, drugs, and genetic changes. They will study lung functions, blood flow, and more with these samples.

They will be growing radishes in space. As we venture farther out into the unknown, we can’t pack all the food we will need. This creates the need to grow food in space, which isn’t easy without gravity. Just watering the plants can be a chore when the water wants to float away! Radishes grow quickly and are very nutritious. That’s a good combination for space food.

Everything that is learned in space helps us here on Earth and makes our lives easier, safer, and more comfortable. A successful mission for NASA and SpaceX is a successful mission for us ALL.

So, join me in the excitement this evening as these four incredible human beings blast off into space! Watch it live right here https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive. Coverage has already begun and there’s some cool things to learn. Live coverage begins at 2:15. Make sure you get the kids involved. You just might spark an interest in a career that pays well and is very rewarding and fun!

The next manned launch is scheduled for March 30th. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully I can go down for that and not be worried too much about Covid. Fingers crossed!

And HOPEFULLY the launch will be a “Go”. The weather is a bit tricky, with some cumulus clouds threatening to postpone our excitement. Those clouds can generate a bit of a spark between the rocket and the cloud. That’s not good! The chance for launch is currently set at 50%.

Meanwhile, enjoy watching the show online! I’m sure NASA TV will cover it too and some national news outlets may show it, as well.

In a challenging year like we’ve had it’s so nice to see something like this taking place. It gives us hope.

The astronauts shared their personal goals for this mission:

@Astro_illini: Land safely and return to our families

@AstroVicGlover: Take a lot of pictures

S. Walker: Accomplish our work & have fun doing it

@Astro_Soichi: Enjoy every moment, return home with a smile

Godspeed, Astronauts Walker, Glover, Hopkins, and Noguchi!

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