MIGHTY CULTURE

Everybody looks up

J.M. Eddins Jr.

In this video, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a member of the Defense Innovation (Unit) Board, talks about how space exploration, and the development of technologies that make it possible, can inspire a new generation to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


As with the Apollo and space shuttle missions of previous generations, the U.S. Air Force was once again an integral part of a launch that had everybody looking up. It was an event which will undoubtedly inspire future STEM generations to consider a career in the Air Force.

In a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA astronauts Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Corps Col. Douglas Hurley launched at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida–the same launch pad used for the Apollo 11 Moon Landing mission.

They were the first astronauts to fly into space from U.S. soil in nine years aboard the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft to carry humans to orbit, opening a new era in human spaceflight.

The astronauts' spacecraft then docked with International Space Station's Harmony module at 10:16 a.m. EDT May 31, where Behnken and Hurley were welcomed as crew members of Expedition 63 by fellow NASA astronaut Navy Capt. Chris Cassidy.

Astronaut U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Behnken is welcomed aboard the International Space Station after he and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday, March 31, 2020. The two astronauts were the first to launch from American soil in nine years. (STILL PHOTO FROM VIDEO // NASA)

In addition, U.S. Air Force "Guardian Angel" pararescue forces were pre-positioned in key locations, alert and ready to deploy at a moment's notice, had the astronauts needed to abort the launch and splash down within 200 nautical miles of the launch site. An HC-130 Combat King II aircraft along with two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were set to deploy from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, if needed.

These aircraft will carry a team of up to nine pararescue specialists along with rescue equipment and medical supplies. The pararescue specialists would jump from the aircraft with inflatable boats and an inflatable ring called a stabilization collar to steady the capsule and other equipment in the water.

Pararescue specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron, located in Portland, Oregon and supporting the 45th Operations Group's Detachment 3, based out of Patrick Air Force Base, prepare equipment during an April astronaut rescue exercise with NASA's Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX off of Florida's eastern coast. The pararescue specialists, also known as "Guardian Angels," jumped from military aircraft and simulated a rescue operation to demonstrate their ability to safely remove crew from the SpaceX Crew Dragon in the unlikely event of an emergency landing. The pararescue specialists are fully qualified paramedics able to perform field surgery, if necessary. (PHOTO // U.S. AIR FORCE)

For contingency landings outside of the 200 nautical mile-radius, a C-17 Globesmater III aircraft would have deployed with the same type of team and equipment to execute rescue operation from either Charleston AFB, South Carolina, or Hickam AFB, Hawaii, depending on the splashdown location.

The "Guardian Angels" will also be ready when the astronauts return to Earth.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.