Trump to visit Kennedy Space Center for crew launch

President Donald Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, delivers remarks at a 2018 meeting of the National Space Council at the White House. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

President Trump plans to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida next week to view the first launch of astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, according to White House officials.

Vice President Mike Pence previously announced plans to travel to the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Launch is scheduled for May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT). It will be the first time astronauts have lifted off from a U.S. spaceport and headed into orbit since the last space shuttle launch July 8, 2011.

Details about Trump’s itinerary and where he will view the launch have not been disclosed by the White House.

The trip to Florida’s Space Coast would make Trump the eighth sitting U.S. president to visit the Kennedy Space Center or neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama previously visited the spaceport while in office.

File photo showing the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

The resumption of NASA-funded human space launches comes after a nearly nine-year gap following the retirement of the space shuttle. The new paradigm for crewed U.S. missions to the International Space Station involves public-private partnerships between NASA and commercial companies.

NASA turned to commercial industry under the Obama administration to take over crewed flights to the space station. After delays due to budget shortfalls and technical issues, the commercial crew program is on the cusp of its first test launch of astronauts to the space station.

SpaceX and Boeing won multibillion-dollar NASA contracts in 2014 to design, develop, test and fly the Crew Dragon and Starliner crew capsules. After a problem-plagued unpiloted test flight in December, the Starliner is not expected to be ready to launch with astronauts until early 2021.

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