Astronauts say good-bye to families in touching moment

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley give ‘air hugs’ to sons before taking off for launch

ORLANDO, Fla. – Returning human spaceflight to the U.S. is monumental for all involved, but particularly touching for the families waving goodbye to NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

Hurley and Behnken are the test pilots tasked with flying to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Wednesday’s mission will be the commercial space company’s first piloted flight of the space capsule, breaking barriers of space exploration as this will be the first space flight from U.S. soil on a rocket and capsule not owned or operated by NASA.

Before the two astronauts drove off to Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A, their preparations for lift-off included a heartfelt moment.

Behnken and Hurley have been friends for two decades, both part of NASA’s astronaut class in 2000 where they also met their wives. Hurley is married to Karen Nyberg, a veteran astronaut herself. Nyberg, now a retired astronaut, has spent a combined 180 days in space and lived on the ISS for six months. The two have a 10-year-old son named Jack.

Behnken is married to astronaut Megan McArthur. She was part of the final repair mission for the Hubble Space Telescope and has flown on one space shuttle mission. She and Behnken have a 6-year-old son Theodore, affectionately known as Theo.

The astronaut’s two sons were at Kennedy Space Center Wednesday afternoon for their fathers’ final moments on the ground. Behnken and Hurley were suited up, raising their arms in the form of a hug as their sons stood a few feet away from them, mimicking the motion. Their goodbye a homage to astronaut tradition as space explorers are typically quarantined before launch as to not carry any illnesses in space with them.

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After their heartfelt goodbye, the astronauts drove off in Teslas board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon space capsule. The Falcon 9 rocket was set to lift off at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday, but was scrubbed moments before launch. NASA and SpaceX are set to try again Saturday. Once the rocket lifts off, Crew Dragon will take 19 hours to fly to the International Space Station.

You can keep up with live launch updates here.