NASA astronauts hopelaunch is an inspiration during time of unrest

NASA is opening up the International Space Station for tourists with the first mission as early as 2020.

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SPACE ― A pair of NASA astronauts, who left the Earth on Saturday on a historic mission, offered a message of hope even as a pandemic, protests and civil unrest sweep across the United States.

“The overview effect [is what] astronauts typically achieve when they accomplish their first spaceflight and look back at the Earth and realize that there are no boundaries or borders really observable from space,” NASA astronaut Bob Behnken told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday. “You see that it’s a single planet with a shared atmosphere. It’s our shared place in this universe. So I think that perspective, as we go through things like the pandemic or we see the challenges across our nation or across the world, we recognize that we all face them together.”

Behnken and his fellow astronaut Doug Hurley became the first people that SpaceX has sent to space when their mission launched on Saturday. The company’s Crew Dragon capsule carried the two astronauts to the International Space Station, where the spacecraft docked on Sunday.

“We’re able to get [to] the International Space Station through cooperation with our international partners, with our commercial partners,” Behnken said. “Hopefully we can be an inspiration and an example for what we’d like to see happen across the world.”

Behnken and Hurley joined fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on the space station. Cassidy rang the Nasdaq stock market opening bell Tuesday to celebrate the launch’s success.

Behnken empathized especially with those in the U.S. who have been under quarantine due to the coronavirus crisis. 

“I will tell you that the pandemic challenge should give the entire country and the entire world an appreciation for really what it’s like to be an astronaut, preparing to launch into space [with a] quarantine,” Behnken said.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on the Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard.

NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky

SpaceX plans to launch more than just NASA astronauts to space, as the company plans to send private-paying passengers. Hurley said he thinks “that most people should be able to physically tolerate” a launch, whether it’s to orbit with SpaceX or Boeing or to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin.

“With the proper instruction and training, those folks will understand at least what they’re going to go through, whether it’s a suborbital flight or an actual mission to low Earth orbit,” Hurley said.

Like Behnken, he voiced his hope that sending more people to space will help spread an appreciation for the Earth.

“Take in what is just an incredible planet that we live on,” Hurley said.

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