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Despite NASA warnings: SpaceX astronauts’ historic launch trial draws crowds

Written by jeunes

Despite warnings from NASA officials and the risks involved in the current pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 100,000 lives in the United States, about 150,000 people gathered on the space coast of Florida to watch SpaceX’s first attempt to launch astronauts into space yesterday.

SpaceX attempted to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft with two veteran NASA astronauts from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center yesterday as part of the Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station. Unfortunately, bad weather delayed the launch until Saturday (May 30) at the earliest.

Despite the risk of a coronavirus pandemic (there have been more than 52,000 cases and 2,300 deaths so far related to the new coronavirus in Florida), stormy weather and a tornado warning, about 150,000 people turned out to watch the event. “We are still broadcasting mobile phone data and other reports for possible additional information, but the estimated number of in-person viewers was 150,000,” the Florida Space Coast Office of Tourism told Space.com in an e-mail.

The crowds of spectators, who filled the traffic lanes, creating severe traffic congestion on their way after the launch delay, were impressive. However, if the launch had not occurred during a pandemic, about 500,000 people could have been expected on the space coast, Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s vice president of government and external relations, told Space.com in an e-mail.

Florida recently began easing restrictions, originally imposed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, by reopening businesses and public spaces such as beaches. It remains to be seen how many people will return to Kennedy (which will then be open to the public) this Saturday for the next launch date.

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