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Check out the SpaceX Crew Dragon looking majestic on the launchpad

Excitement is building ahead of SpaceX’s historic rocket launch set for Wednesday, May 27.

The groundbreaking Demo-2 mission will see NASA astronauts taking their place for the first time inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule ahead of a rendezvous with the International Space Station around 250 miles above Earth. It will also be the first astronaut launch from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle program ended almost a decade ago.

SpaceX boss and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on Sunday tweeted a photo showing the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the launchpad and ready to go.

Taking the ride inside the spacecraft atop the rocket will be astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. Hurley later retweeted Musk’s photo with the comment, “What a machine!”

On the weekend the pair took part in a rehearsal of launch day, climbing into their spacesuits, riding a Tesla Model X to Launch Complex 39A, entering the Crew Dragon, and running through lift-off procedures.

Behnken tweeted some of his favorite pictures snapped during the rehearsal. They show him and Hurley kitted out in their launch gear:

Hurley, a veteran of several Space Shuttle missions including the final one in 2011, recently spoke to Digital Trends about this week’s much-anticipated Demo-2 mission.

He talked about how the Shuttle had “almost too many … switches and circuit breakers” for the controls, whereas the Crew Dragon has little more than three large touchscreen displays.

While most of the mission is designed to be automated, the pair can step in and take control if something goes awry. The process of docking with the space station is of course especially crucial, and the two astronauts have been practicing a manual approach in case the autonomous system fails. An online Crew Dragon simulator even lets you try the docking procedure yourself.

We’re now just a few days away from a launch that’s set to put the U.S. back at the forefront of space exploration. Here’s how you can watch live coverage of the lift-off.

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Trevor Mogg
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