NASA has great experience sending astronauts into space, but not much lately. SpaceX has fresh experience with space flights, but not with astronauts on board. On May 27, the two will team up to send a crew of two from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station, reports NBC News. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which went to the space station last year on a cargo run. NASA last sent astronauts to space in 2011, then shut down the Space Shuttle program. The plan for next month's flight is to use Pad 39A, where many Apollo missions began. Hurley was on that last shuttle flight, per the Washington Post, which blasted off from 39A. Behnken also is a veteran of space missions.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the partnership with SpaceX makes sense. "We need access to the International Space Station from the United States of America," he said. "Commercial Crew is the program that’s going to make that happen." NASA has contributed $3.1 billion to SpaceX for the capsule's development. Since it grounded the shuttles, NASA has had to pay Russia to ferry astronauts, at a cost as high as $83 million per seat. Two NASA astronauts, Jessica Meir and Drew Morgan, returned from the space station Friday. That leaves one American, Chris Cassidy, there with two Russian cosmonauts. (More NASA stories.)