President Trump and first lady Melania Trump departed the White House Wednesday to watch the historic launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
The Trumps walked out of the Oval Office at 12:30 p.m., with the president skipping a Q&A with the gathered press, holding the first lady’s hand as they boarded Marine One, neither wearing face masks. She put one on while inside the helicopter.
Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence had traveled ahead to the Kennedy Space Center, where astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to launch from American soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program, which concluded nine years ago.
President Trump (left) didn’t hold an impromptu Q&A with reporters Wednesday instead holding first lady Melania Trump’s (right) hand en route to Marine One
The Trumps walked together to Marine One Wednesday as they headed to the Kennedy Space Center to see the historic SpaceX-NASA launch
A masked Secret Service agent stands in front of Marine One as it lifts off from the White House’s South Lawn Wednesday
First lady Melania Trump put on a mask once inside Marine One Wednesday as she and President Trump traveled to the Kennedy Space Center to see American astronauts lift off for the first time in nine years
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk between Marine One and Air Force One Wednesday en route to Kennedy Space Center
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews Wednesday
First lady Melania Trump (right) and President Trump (center) board Air Force One Wednesday as they head to Florida to see the SpaceX rocket and capsule take two NASA astronauts to space
Air Force Once takes off from Joint Base Andrews Wednesday en route to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
President Trump gives a fist pump to the press as he walked onboard Air Force One alongside first lady Melania Trump on Wednesday
Vice President Mike Pence (center right), who’s holding his mask in his hand, stands alongside wife Karen Pence (right), NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (center left) and SpaceX founder Elon Musk (left)
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken gives a thumbs up to Vice President Mike Pence who was there to see the astronauts say goodbye to their families and leave in white Teslas
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley said goodbye to their families and then boarded a Tesla Model X, which is the other company associated with SpaceX founder Elon Musk
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken made hugging motions toward their family members before Wednesday’s historic launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of it is seen from a distance at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday
Storm clouds pass over the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. Weather could potentially delay Wednesday’s launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft
Hurley was the pilot of the final Space Shuttle mission. In recent years, American astronauts have had to travel to the International Space Station on Russian rockets.
The Wednesday launch will mark the fifth time in history the U.S. has launched American astronauts in a new rocket system.
The Pences, who had face masks and wore them for part of the time, stood alongside Behnken, Hurley and their families as the astronauts said goodbye Wednesday afternoon.
The astronauts’ mission is expected to last between one and four months.
They then got into Tesla Model X cars, the other company associated with SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
The white Teslas had NASA’s ‘worm’ logo on the rear window and spherical blue logo on the sides.
Musk, also in a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, stood nearby.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will take off from Launch Pad 39A, the same facility used by Neil Armstrong and the Apollo crew for their historic voyage to the moon.
While waiting for the Trumps arrival, the Pences toured Launch Complex 34, where the Apollo 1 fire occurred in 1967, killing three astronauts.
The vice president and Karen Pence left flowers underneath the memorial plaque alongside Sheryl Lyn Chaffee and Chaffee’s spouse Grady Thomas. Chaffee was the daughter of Roger B. Chaffee, one of the astronauts who died.
Lift-off is scheduled for 4:33 p.m., though weather could postpone the launch. A rescheduled launch would take place Saturday.
A tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service for Brevard County, where Kennedy Space Center is located, with less than three hours to go before the launch.
Both Pence and Trump will deliver remarks from the Kennedy Space Center after the launch.
Wednesday’s trip to Florida will mark Pence’s second time in the state in a week.
He traveled to Orlando last Wednesday to talk about economic reopening as cases of coronavirus in the U.S. decrease with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, restaurant owners and hospitality and amusement park bosses.
On this trip, Pence talked excitedly about coming back for the rocket launch, while DeSantis hinted Trump could come too.
On May 5, Trump started traveling again and has made a weekly trek to a swing state since.
Trump, who is now a resident of Florida, won the state in 2016.
He needs to do so again and keep Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in his column in order to earn a second term.