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NASA begs people to avoid SpaceX’s first astronaut launch

Published Apr 24th, 2020 4:15PM EDT
spacex iss launch
Image: Terry Renna/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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  • NASA is asking that fans avoid attending the first crewed SpaceX launch to the International Space Station.
  • The event is a long time coming, and while NASA won’t be selling tickets to attendees, the agency is still concerned that people may flock to roadsides and other public places to catch a glimpse of the action.
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SpaceX is gearing up for a history-making mission. The company will be sending NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil, which is something that hasn’t happened in nearly a decade. It’s going to be a huge deal for both SpaceX and NASA.

Normally, an event like this would cause crowds to gather. Space fans would descend on the Florida launch site in huge numbers and celebrate the launch of NASA astronauts from their home country. Unfortunately, the current global health crisis is complicating things to a huge degree, and NASA wants to make it clear that people should not attend the event.

As reports, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke about the launch during a lengthy video conference this week. During the call, he strongly urged all NASA and SpaceX fans to make their own health a top priority and avoid attending the launch in person.

“We are asking people to join us in this launch, but to do so from home. We’re asking people not to travel to the Kennedy Space Center,” Bridenstine said. “We’re trying to make sure we have access to the International Space Station without drawing the massive amount of crowds that we usually would.”

Typically, tickets to view the launch would be sold to eager onlookers, but that obviously won’t be the case this time around. Still, it’s common for people to gather in large numbers in public places that provide a glimpse of the launch site. That, Bridenstine said, can’t happen this time, and anyone doing so would be putting themselves at risk.

The fact that the launch has remained on schedule is an impressive feat. It was many weeks ago that NASA was forced to issue stay-at-home orders to the majority of its staff in the hopes of preventing the novel coronavirus pandemic from spreading through its workforce. Only “mission-critical” staff are allowed at NASA facilities.

The SpaceX launch and the Mars 2020 mission are both still on track for their respective launch windows despite the fact that many NASA employees are doing all of their work from their own homes.

We still don’t know how long it will be before daily life will begin to return to normal. Social distancing is paying off, and we are seeing cases of COVID-19 curving in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. In the meantime, we’ll have to enjoy events like the SpaceX ISS launch remotely and be patient as we wait for the situation to improve.

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