Discovery and Science Channel Blast Off with Live Coverage of NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 Mission

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White steam from the fuel billowed into the clear black night sky Sunday as the seconds ticked back to lift-off. For a moment, the screen filled with orange fire as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off this planet. Once, it was easier to grasp the significance of each space launch. The world seemed to hold its collective breath as a rocket went up. The concept was mind-boggling and so new. We knew astronauts’ names, where they were from, and felt connected to their families. Then, launches became more common, and for a while, they seemed almost pedestrian. Almost.

Sunday evening’s perfect launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 mission, a partnership between NASA and SpaceX, sent four astronauts to the International Space Station. This launch had to be rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday evening because of inclement weather in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Before the lift-off, former astronaut Mike Massimino (pictured below), who provided commentary for the three-hour Space Launch Live: Crew-1 Lift-Off on Discovery and Science Channel, spoke exclusively with MediaVillage.

“It's the first operational launch, the first time sending a crew there to stay for a while,” Massimino said, explaining the significance of this SpaceX launch. “The first time was just two people. Will this work? We didn’t know. Now, this is an expedition crew.”

Three NASA astronauts -- Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker -- and Japan Aerospace Exploration astronaut Soichi Noguchi are in the Dragon spacecraft. After 27 hours of space travel, they will dock at the International Space Station for six months. (Walker, Glover, Hopkins and Noguchi are pictured left to right at top.)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket is reusable, and the potential is for this to lead to commercial space travel. Ultimately, Musk and other billionaires working on the next steps of interplanetary travel envision rockets being used for frequent trips to the Moon and beyond.

This is also a huge deal for Discovery and Science Channel.

“The awe and wonder of science and the next frontier is such a perfect moment for our brand to do it this way,” said Scott Lewers, executive vice president of multiplatform programming, factual and head of content, Science Channel. “To bring this great coverage and exclusive coverage, to give our viewers a front-row seat to this epic launch -- no one covers it like we do at Discovery. It is three hours. In addition to learning and experiencing, it is seeing the awe and wonder of technology.”

Discovery and Science channels have the advantage of using cameras from different vantages from NASA, SpaceX and the network's cameras. “Our coverage continues until they reach low orbit,” Lewers explained. “It is another eight and a half hours for low orbit to the space station, and the whole docking procedure is on other platforms.”

Musk, who was supposed to be at the launch, tested positive for COVID-19. Though he reported no serious symptoms, he did not join his staff in Florida.

As daylight gave way to night, tests continued, weather patterns were monitored, and coverage included four astronauts speaking from their homes. Massimino, who served 18 years as a NASA astronaut, is noted for many accomplishments and will forever be remembered for sending the first Tweet from space. (Technically, he emailed the Johnson Space Center, and it was then posted to his Twitter account.) It read: “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!”

The Columbia University professor is also known for his devotion to Snoopy. In fact, Massimino took his good luck Snoopy doll with him to space, and he keeps it near him on air.

“When I was six, they came out with a Snoopy astronaut in a moonwalking suit, and my big brother, who’s ten years older, got it for me,” Massimino shared. “I took Snoopy to space. Forty years later, I still have him with me. I keep him at home in my office, and he goes on TV with me. He will be on the Discovery broadcast. Whenever I am nervous, I bring Snoopy with me.”

Although he holds space records -- he was the last person to work on the Hubble Space Telescope – has received a couple of patents, has multiple degrees, and played himself six times on The Big Bang Theory,Massimino, 58, stressed he’s a regular guy.

“We are just regular people, too,” he said. “We just have really cool jobs.”

Watching the retired astronauts observe the active astronauts in the countdown to the countdown, it was so clear how genuinely excited all of them remain. The possibilities that Sunday’s successful launch could lead to regular space travel boggles the mind, just as those early space missions did. The limitless possibilities align with the networks' mission, which Lewers described as “the DNA of our brand with science and technology and learning and curiosity.

“You can be a 7-year-old kid to myself in my mid-forties, and you are still taken aback to watch science come together in these huge feats,” he said. “The learning of how we got there and will be there for awe-inspiring, inspirational events. Separate of the space part, the power of live TV -- like live sporting events and news -- is what is driving traditional viewing. These moments and launches are moments for our brand, delivering epic news in real time. Live viewing or live streaming, our brands are there in a relevant, big way, and it’s super exciting for the future and epic next steps in space travel and going to the Moon. And we will be bringing much more to our audience this way.”

Photo credit (Mike Massimino): Jeffrey Shifman for Columbia Engineering.

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