The Atlantic Daily: Elon Musk Comes Within 20 Minutes of History
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“That was one hell of a dress rehearsal.”
That’s the reaction of our space reporter Marina Koren, upon hearing the news that today’s historic SpaceX launch would be postponed—just 17 minutes prior to lift off—because of the weather.
Such delays aren’t uncommon at Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Today’s conditions thwarted Elon Musk’s bid to send astronauts into space on a private spacecraft—but not for good.
On Saturday, the team will get a second shot, and the astronauts will need to go through the stressful launch pageantry anew, Marina reports:
Today, in live footage from Cape Canaveral, I watched Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, in their spacesuits and helmets, climb into the car that would take them to the launchpad. Their wives and young sons came up to the dark windows and pressed their hands against the glass. As the clock ticked down, I felt my adrenaline surging with every passing minute, and I was on my couch, not a rocket.
I can’t imagine how intense this experience must have been for the astronauts. Everyone was ready to go today, but from the moment the astronauts woke up, the people preparing to launch them to space knew the weather gods would make the final decision for them. All that buildup, and then they had to climb out and come back down. And now they have to do this all over again.
Until then, here’s what to keep in mind about this mission:
1. This is an unprecedented moment in American spaceflight history.
“NASA has outsourced perhaps its most consequential task: delivering human beings beyond the boundary that separates us from the rest of the universe, and then bringing them home. And it has given the job not to a fellow spacefaring nation, but to a domestic contractor that has been flying rockets to orbit for just over a decade.”
2. SpaceX is running the show from its own mission control, but NASA will still be in the loop.
“Although SpaceX engineers are at the controls, NASA personnel will be standing over their shoulders, as they have been throughout this years-long effort to get off the ground. The agency has set the rules for keeping the astronauts safe from start to finish, and the buck stops with the NASA administrator, not SpaceX’s CEO.”
3. The two astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, are seasoned pros.
And they’re best friends. This’ll be their first mission together. Their wives are both astronauts as well. (If you were wondering: It’s tougher to be the one watching the launch than the one on the rocket, they told Marina.)
4. The SpaceX capsule they’re flying in looks a lot sleeker than the space shuttle’s.
The interior of the capsule is black and white, with clean lines and cushy seats. A triptych of touch screens, compatible with spacesuit gloves, displays important information. … Hurley estimates that the SpaceX capsule has about 30 manual switches and circuit breakers, compared with the shuttle’s 2,000.
One question, answered: Can I go to the dentist?
Joe Pinsker posed to a few experts the question you might’ve been asking yourself in the bathroom mirror. Here’s what he found:
If you have an urgent dental problem, yes. If you have a routine cleaning coming up, that’s a tougher call. The experts were not thrilled about the fact that patients can’t wear a mask while someone is fiddling around with their mouth, but had confidence in dentists’ procedures for minimizing the risk of infections of any kind. This one seems like it could go either way, so perhaps the deciding factor is how long you’re comfortable postponing your cleaning.
What to read if … you just want practical advice:
- Here’s how many people have the coronavirus in your state
What to read if … you’d like to read about something—anything—other than the coronavirus:
What is a “wine mom”? It depends on whom you ask, Ashley Fetters reports: “The wine mom is either a beleaguered but sympathetic figure, or a subtly sinister one.”
View all of our stories related to the coronavirus outbreak here. Did you get a pandemic puppy? Are you actively looking for one right now? Tell us about your experience.