NASA chooses a Tesla Model X to transport astronauts to new SpaceX mission
On May 27, crewed spaceflight will return to American soil for the first time in a decade. To get astronauts around Kennedy Space Center, where liftoff is set to take place, NASA has chosen to drive them in a Tesla Model X SUV.
On May 13, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted four photos of a Model X with a Florida license plate wearing NASA branding in front of the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Horizontal Integration Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
SpaceX is an American aerospace company founded in 2002 by Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Astronauts Col. Bob Behnken and Col. Doug Hurley will be aboard the Model X when it takes them to the launchpad. Behnken will serve as Joint Operation Commander and Hurley's role is Spacecraft Commander. Hurley was last in orbit in 2011 on NASA's final shuttle mission aboard Atlantis.
Atlantis is now retired and on display at Kennedy Space Center.
The Demo-2 mission will mark the first crewed launch SpaceX has ever performed. The mission is a joint operation between NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing and designed to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). For the much of the Obama and Trump administrations, NASA has relied on Russian spacecrafts for transport to and from the ISS.
Though it's the first crewed craft in the partnership, SpaceX brings a fair amount of experience to the table. The SpaceX Crew Dragon that the Demo-2 crew will be transported in is a version of the Dragon 2 capsule that SpaceX has used to successfully bring cargo to and from the ISS. The Crew Dragon can carry up to seven passengers, just like the Model X.
Not bad for a first try boss! By the way, the spacesuits were completely designed and built in house in less than four years by the amazing @SpaceX suit team. https://t.co/I7TTFBK65l
— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) May 13, 2020
The Crew Dragon will not be relying solely on electric power for its flight. However, the mission is set to be more sustainable than other crewed journeys. SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9 booster rocker that will propel the capsule into space on a drone ship that is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The company has practiced and successfully achieved this task several times.
Launch coverage of the event will be streamed by NASA starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on May 27. Whether or not the Model X will play a starring role has yet to be seen.
NASA and SpaceX prepare to #LaunchAmerica www.youtube.com