Word finally came down that the atmosphere was so electrically charged that the spacecraft with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard was in danger of getting hit by a bolt of lightning.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on May 28, 2020

The long-held dream of SpaceX founder Elon Musk to send humans into orbit was temporary scuppered by the weather.

It was to be a history-making flight. It was to be the first ever crewed space launch by a private company, Elon Musk‘s SpaceX, and it also marked the first time in nearly a decade that the US launched astronauts into orbit from American soil. The Dragon spacecraft was to blast off for the International Space Station.

Elon Musk described the day as a “dream come true”, adding he felt extra responsibility for the NASA astronauts after seeing them wave goodbye to their families.

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre to watch. Trump took a tour of the Kennedy Space Centre, while daughter Ivanka Trump was photographed wearing a mask. Her dad did not. In a brief press conference, Trump praised Musk, whom he described as a “long time” friend, and said it was something he and his wife Melania had looked forward to seeing.

“Before they had grass growing in the runways and now we have the best of the best,” Trump said.

Two hours before the scheduled launch a tornado warning was issued a short distance from where SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to leave.

Then, as AP News reported, word finally came down that the atmosphere was so electrically charged that the spacecraft with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard was in danger of getting hit by a bolt of lightning and the launch had to be aborted with less than 17 minutes to go. It has been rescheduled for Saturday at 3.23pm ET.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were to ride aboard the SpaceX’s sleek, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, taking off from the same launch pad used during the Apollo moon missions 50 years ago.

“We could see some raindrops on the windows and just figured that whatever it was, was too close to the launch pad at the time we needed it not to be,” Hurley, the spacecraft commander, said after the flight was scrubbed. “Understand that everybody’s probably a little bit bummed out. That’s just part of the deal. … We’ll do it again, I think, on Saturday.”

“Appreciate your resilience sitting there in the vehicle,” a NASA controller replied.

Behnken responded: “Nothing better than being prime crew on a new spaceship.”

The astronauts had to remain strapped in their seats until all the fuel in their rocket was unloaded and the emergency escape system was disarmed.