SpaceX launch: How NASA astronauts will escape if historic launch goes wrong


NASA and SpaceX will attempt to launch two astronauts into space tonight, marking the first manned US launch in over nine years.

The mission will see astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley launched into space on board a Falcon 9 rocket, on a 400 kilometre journey to the International Space Station.

While NASA and SpaceX have been preparing for the launch for months, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has admitted to feeling nervous.

Speaking to CBS This Morning, he said: “I'm the chief engineer of this thing so I'd just like to say that if it goes right, it's credit to the SpaceX-NASA team. If it goes wrong, it's my fault.”

Musk added that the astronauts’ safety is the ‘only priority’ during the launch.

He said: “[The responsibility is] really all I can think about right now. I really can I have to kind of mentally block it because otherwise it would be emotionally impossible to deal with.”
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits

But what happens if the launch doesn’t go to plan?

Thankfully, SpaceX has a plan in place to safely bring the astronauts back to Earth, should anything go wrong.

The launch escape system works by quickly and automatically propelling the astronaut-carrying Crew Capsule away from the booster at high speeds, ensuring the astronauts are at a safe distance in case of any explosions.
A SpaceX rocket test in action ahead of today's crewed launch (Image: Space X/Twitter)

The Crew Capsule then returns the astronauts to the ground, guided by a parachute.

SpaceX successfully demonstrated the technology in January, although the test did not have any humans on board.

It explained: “This test, which did not have NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, demonstrated Crew Dragon’s ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.
The astronauts are crewing a largely autonomous flight (Image: Space X/Twitter)

“Dragon safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and teams successfully recovered the spacecraft onto SpaceX’s recovery vessel.”

Tonight’s launch is scheduled for 16:33 EDT (21:33 BST).

Mirror Online will be live streaming the event, so make sure you check back in then!