On Wednesday, two weeks before the highly anticipated launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, NASA revealed that astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will take to the launch pad in a stylized Tesla Model X.
” Here are some @You’re here news everyone should love “, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. “Discover the model X which will wear @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug on the dashboard of the Demo-2 mission! “
For nearly three decades, NASA astronauts have traveled in the iconic Astrovan. From 1984 to the end of the shuttle program in 2011, crews flying in this vehicle would dress inside a Kennedy Space Center facility and then travel nine miles to the launch pad in a modified Airstream Excella RV.
But as Bob Dylan sang, times change, and SpaceX provided a ride in a detailed X model with the NASA “meatball” and “worm” logos. In Ars’ review of Model X, we described the vehicle’s legroom for front and rear passengers as “particularly spacious, especially with the fully flat floor made possible by the huge battery and without the need for ” a powertrain tunnel descending to the center. the center line of the vehicle. “
Lest anyone worried that Hurley and Behnken would sneak inside the Model X, a source said that they “absolutely” could have a lot of room and have done so several times.
Teslas and Astrovans
SpaceX founder Elon Musk also owns Tesla, of course, and this is not the first time that rockets and cars have mixed. At the SpaceX rocket plant in California, as well as at its facilities in Florida and Texas, there are small fleets of vehicles used to move people. Musk also launched its own Tesla into space during the landmark Falcon Heavy rocket flight in 2018. This new mode of astronaut transportation should therefore come as no surprise.
SpaceX and Boeing are both building spacecraft to take astronauts into space for NASA as part of the agency’s commercial crew program. While Boeing is unlikely to launch humans for a year on its Starliner spacecraft, the company revealed last October that it would opt for slightly more traditional astronaut transport to the pad.
To this end, Boeing will use what it has dubbed “Astrovan II”, built on a modified Airstream Atlas Touring Coach, which itself is beginning to become a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van chassis.
Ars automotive writer Jonathan Gitlin was not impressed by Boeing’s announcement. “For a relatively short trip like this, wouldn’t it have been nice if he had completely given up the internal combustion engine for a bunch of batteries and electric motors? ” he wrote. “But really, my main problem is aesthetics because the original Astrovan – like most shiny and polished trailers from Airstream – looked so cool. And Astrovan II looks like a van. “
Musk appears to have granted Gitlin his wish for electric motors.
Ad image by Jim Bridenstine / NASA