MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — Doug Hurley is gearing up for the biggest launch of his life, and this time, even though the longtime astronaut won't have his family with him, his wife will know what he'll go through.
"It's been a long road to get here, and I don't think that any one of us would have predicted that when we were ready to go fly this mission that we'd be dealing with this."
The coronavirus pandemic means that Hurley's wife and their young son can't be with him at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to witness him making history. He and fellow astronaut Robert Behnken on Wednesday are set to lift off from historic launch pad 39A — where shuttles and Apollo missions took off — aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
"It certainly is a disappointing aspect of all this — this pandemic — the fact that we won't have the luxury of our family and friends being at Kennedy to watch the launch, but obviously it's the right thing to do in the current environment," he said.
Hurley and fellow astronaut Robert Behnken will both experience the breathtaking views of Earth together from the International Space Station.
Hurley was selected as an astronaut 20 years ago. He's completed two spaceflights serving as pilot and lead robotics operator during the space shuttle era. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.
But included in his long list of titles and accomplishments is Dad and husband. Moreover, his wife is just as accomplished: "We were classmates in 2000 and eventually that blossomed into something more," Hurley said.
The couple both have a love of space — and have both been there before.
"She's an amazing person, she's beautiful, she's smarter than the average bear, especially to be a Marine fighter pilot. We just hit it off from day one," he said.
To say that his wife can imagine what he'll be facing during his mission is an understatement. NASA selected Karen Nyberg as an astronaut 20 years ago, too. Nyberg is also a veteran of two spaceflights, spending 180 days in space over the course of the missions. She's a mechanical engineer. The world watched her 250 miles above the earth in 2013 from onboard the International Space Station serving as Expedition 36's Flight Engineer for six months.
Back then, Nyberg was the one missing the couple's young son, Jack.
"My husband sends up pictures and videos and our support people at NASA do the same," Nyberg said at the time.
Hurley added, "With today's modern conveniences of iPads and Skype and FaceTime and those things, I think Jack has been used to that."
Now it's Nyberg's time to watch her husband in action alongside all of us back on solid ground.
"I told her when she got back it was a lot easier to be the one on the rocket than to be someone watching someone go," Hurley said.
But ultimately, "we want everybody to be safe," he added. "We want everyone to enjoy this and relish this moment in U.S. space history."
Behnken is also a Dad and husband to an astronaut — Megan McArthur is a recently retired astronaut.