Per the White House, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence plan to attend Wednesday’s SpaceX launch to watch American astronauts blast into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center.
Why is it a big enough deal that the heads of the executive branch will be in Central Florida? Because it’ll be the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 that U.S. astronauts will launch into space aboard an American rocket from American soil.
The NASA/SpaceX Commercial Crew flight test launch is scheduled to blast off at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday from launch pad 39A, the same one the Apollo astronauts used to get to the moon. It will carry NASA’s newest test pilots, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
According to the Associated Press, a private company — not NASA — will be in charge of the launch.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the conductor and NASA the customer as businesses begin chauffeuring astronauts to the International Space Station. With American shuttles no longer in use, the United States has had to rely on Russia for rides to the station.
“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said in a statement.