Since 2011, American astronauts have not traveled into space from the famous launch point, Cape Canaveral. On Saturday, May 30, 2020, that changed. The Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon capsule, built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, successfully sent NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into orbit. Nineteen hours later, they successfully docked with the International Space Station. Hurley and Behnken are both fathers of young sons, and it turns out one guy who hung out with Hurley and Benhken’s sons while their dads were launching into space, was another dad; Elon Musk.
According to multiple reports, Musk — who just welcomed a new baby with his partner Grimes — got “choked up,” when asked about his talks with the children of the astronauts. “It really hit home…I think it was an argument that the return is more dangerous in some ways than the ascent, so in order to declare victory yet, we need to bring them home safely [and] make sure that we’re doing everything we can to minimize that risk of reentry and return.”
Astronaut Behnken is married to fellow NASA astronaut, Megan McArthur, with whom he has a six-year-old son, Theodore. In one statement, Behnken mentioned that sharing space flight with a new generation was part of his motivation to return to space: “There’s a generation of people who maybe didn’t get a chance to see a space shuttle launch…and [now they’re] getting a chance again to see human spaceflight in our own backyard.”
Like Behnken, Hurley is also the dad of a young son — 10-year-old Jack — and married to a retired astronaut Karen Nyberg. Sons of both astronauts are, not shockingly, obsessed with dinosaurs, and it turns out that a Beanie-Baby dinosaur toy was smuggled on board the Dragon capsule. This, apparently, is one of Theodore’s toys. In 2013, when Nyberg last flew in space, she made a DIY stuffed dinosaur from cobbled-together-scraps of fabric on the International Space Station.
The latest stuffed dinosaur’s name is “Tremor,” and the astronauts used it to test the gravity level in the capsule once they achieved orbit. This is a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of space flight; using an object to test the gravity inside of a spacecraft. But, right now, it’s also a family tradition.
“That was a super cool thing for us to get a chance to do for both of our sons, who I hope were super excited to see their toy floating around on board. I am sure they would rather be here [in space],” Behnken said. “But hopefully they are proud of [us] as well.”
You can watch the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule dock with the ISS here.