I’ve had the privilege of working on two historic NASA missions over the past year, during which the United States launched astronauts into space from its own soil for the first time since 2011. Although these launches took place from a launch pad in Florida, my participation in both launches took place from the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) at Vandenberg Air Forces base, California. This team of space experts from Vandenberg not only had Americans and Canadians like me on it, but a whole host of multinational partners as well.
The first of the two manned launches this year took place on May 30, 2020, and it was no surprise seeing the excitement around the operations floor leading up to the event. That day, the SpaceX Demonstration Mission #2 (DM-2) launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, and marked the first launch of US astronauts from US soil since the last shuttle launch, Atlantis, occurred on July 8, 2011.
Our team here at the Combined Force Space Component Command’s CSpOC worked very hard to ensure this was a well-planned and executed mission. Through the tactical execution of checklists, the many weeks of planning and assisting sister agencies, to the use of our sensors used to track the launch from land to orbit, we knew this was definitely a historic and monumental launch.
What we noticed from this launch was simple: human space flight is exciting to everyone, regardless of what country is launching astronauts into space. Countries like…