The two astronauts who will end a nine-year launch drought for NASA arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, exactly one week before their historic SpaceX flight. It will be the first time a private company, rather than a national government, sends astronauts into orbit, the AP reports. NASA test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to Florida from their home base in Houston aboard one of the space agency's jets. "It’s an incredible time for NASA and the space program, once again launching US crews from Florida and hopefully in just a week from about right now," Hurley told reporters minutes after arriving.
Hurley was one of the four astronauts who arrived at Kennedy on July 4, 2011, for the final space shuttle flight, "so it’s incredibly humbling to be here to start out the next launch from the United States," he said. "We feel it as an opportunity but also a responsibility for the American people, for the SpaceX team, for all of NASA," Behnken added. The two are scheduled to blast off next Wednesday afternoon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, bound for the International Space Station. They'll soar from the same pad where Atlantis closed out the shuttle program in 2011, the last home launch for NASA astronauts. Since then, the only way to the space station for astronauts has been on Russian rockets launched from Kazakhstan.
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