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Locals talk about upcoming SpaceX launch

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AP Photo The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A Monday, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station.

The excitement about the first launch of a manned spacecraft in the United States in nine years is still strong in some locals, even if watch parties or in-person youth activities are not planned.

Col. Douglas Hurley and Col. Robert Behnken will be the first people to pilot the Crew Dragon capsule, which will be atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket heading to the International Space Station. The last time U.S. astronauts took off from here was during a Space Shuttle mission in 2011.

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration will air the scheduled 2:33 p.m. (Mountain Time) launch today and the Thursday arrival of the crew at the Space Station on its TV station (www.nasa.gov/nasalive), social media sites and smartphone apps.

Roswell and New Mexico have a long space tradition. Robert H. Goddard, the “father of modern rocketry,” did some of his research here in the 1930s, and aeronautical and space research has occurred at Holloman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range. Now the Spaceport near Las Cruces is envisioned as the nation’s first commercial spaceflight operation.

Normally, the SpaceX launch would be a primary focus for Camp Invention, the Roswell Astronomy Club and other youth groups that include a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) component, said educator Peggy Bohlin.

She’s a teacher liaison with the Space Foundation, a volunteer with the Solar System Ambassador Program, a leader with Camp Invention and the local Astronomy Club. She also plans to join the Roswell Public Library soon as its STEM educator. (See her column about the launch on Page A5 inside.)

Neither she nor other local leaders involved with STEM education and aviation groups were aware of any locally organized youth activities related to the launch because of state public health orders restricting activities and gatherings.

“It is very unfortunate,” she said. “This is something that, if we had been doing Camp Invention, we would have been very involved with it.”

Nevertheless, she said she plans to watch from where she is in Colorado and encourages others to, as well.

Mark Bleth, deputy director of the Roswell Air Center and a member of a local aviators’ group, said he plans to watch the launch.

“This will truly usher in the commercial space age, or what I like to call ‘The People’s Space Age,’” he said, referring to the fact that this is seen as an early demonstration of the feasibility of commercial space travel. “(It will be) amazing to witness with the world! Space transcends any nation, politics, geography, race, creed or sex.”

Jenna Sechrist and her husband, Mike Lanfor, are leaders of a local aviation-related Explorer Scouts group.

“Watching the launch (today) is an opportunity to be inspired by the reigniting of our nation’s manned spaced exploration programs,” she said. “This marks a union of research history and modern industry. I am excited to witness the advanced recovery systems of the rocket launchers. In addition, contemplating how vast the universe is may remind us all that there is something positive to focus on amidst our current crisis.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.