GUY ADAMS examines the life and times of Elon Musk


Except for one sticky moment when U.S. astronaut Doug Hurley appeared to clobber his head on an entry hatch as he crossed the threshold of the International Space Station, it all went like a dream.

At teatime yesterday, a 19-hour flight followed by a flawless piece of zero-orbit parking saw the Space X capsule reach its destination some 262 miles above Earth.

Watching was an audience of tens of millions bearing witness to a new chapter in space exploration: not only are Doug and his crewmate Bob Behnken the first Americans to fly from their own soil into space for almost nine years (in the interim, colleagues have been hitching pricey rides on Russian spacecraft) they are also the first astronauts to reach the ISS in a privately built rocket.

The pioneering duo blasted off from Titusville, Florida, on Saturday, watched by President Donald Trump and his deputy, Mike Pence. In the UK, the rocket was spotted passing below the moon just before 10pm.

Space X is the brainchild of Elon Musk (pictured left, with girlfriend Grime, right), a highly eccentric Silicon Valley tycoon who brought the world PayPal and Tesla cars, and is now devoting his $37 billion fortune to going where no man has gone before

En route, they enjoyed an eight-hour sleep, ate dinner and sent a short film back to Earth with footage of a ‘stowaway’: a toy dinosaur named Tremor the Apatosaurus, sent by their sons (aged six and ten) to keep them company. They will now spend up to four months at their destination.

To some, the so-far-successful mission recalls the heyday of American space exploration, when the world gathered round television sets to watch the likes of Neil Armstrong take giant leaps for mankind.

Yet the man behind this brave new era is no ordinary Nasa boffin.

Space X is the brainchild of Elon Musk, a highly eccentric Silicon Valley tycoon who brought the world PayPal and Tesla cars, and is now devoting his $37 billion fortune to going where no man has gone before.

Musk launched the firm in the early 2000s, announcing that he intends, within a few decades, not only to have put an astronaut on Mars, but also to be taking the first steps to establish a human colony there, thus ensuring mankind’s future, should Earth one day become uninhabitable.

Declaring himself ‘overcome with emotion’, he has, for now, managed to silence the doubters. So who is this eccentric rocket man?

Astronaut Bob Behnken arrives at the International Space Station and becomes one of two Americans to fly from their own soil into space for almost nine years

Astronaut Bob Behnken arrives at the International Space Station and becomes one of two Americans to fly from their own soil into space for almost nine years

A troubled Childhood

Nicknamed ‘genius boy’, Elon Musk purportedly read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica in early childhood and learned to ‘code’ at the age of ten, within days of acquiring a computer. By 12, he’d created and sold his first tech product, a video game called Blastar, for £500.

It was not, however, a happy childhood. The 48-year-old was born in apartheid-era South Africa, one of three children of engineer Errol Musk and his author wife, Maye. His parents divorced when he was eight.

At school, he was badly bullied, once beaten so badly he spent a fortnight in hospital. At home, things were barely better. Errol, from whom he’s been estranged for years, was a strict disciplinarian allegedly fond of corporal punishment. In 2018, it emerged that Errol had a fathered child with his stepdaughter Jana. Musk told Rolling Stone magazine that Errol is ‘a terrible human being’.

Off to AMERICA…

By the age of 17, Musk was desperate to escape South Africa and his overbearing dad, so decided to head for Canada, where his mother Maye had grown up.

He arrived without a penny to his name, relying on the generosity of relatives for accommodation and living for weeks at a time off economy-size bags of hot dogs.

Eventually, he won a place at the University of Pennsylvania to study Economics and Physics. After graduating, Musk headed west, to Silicon Valley, where in 1995 he was accepted onto a PhD course at the prestigious Stanford University. However, he dropped out during his first week to start a business called Zip2, which developed software for media companies.

The timing could not have been better: Zip2 rode the internet boom and was sold in 1999 for an astonishing $341 million, netting Musk a $22 million cut. But that was just the start . . .

Electric dreams

Musk proceeded to join the ranks of the global super-rich via his next bet: an online bank called X.com, which was eventually sold to eBay in 2002, earning him roughly $180 million —after tax.

The cash allowed him to dream big. That year he founded SpaceX, announcing that his end goal was to build a ‘BFR’ — or ‘Big F*****g Rocket’ — to help mankind colonise Mars before over-population renders Earth uninhabitable.

In 2003 and 2004, Musk also made timely bets on the alternative energy sector, founding a company called Solarcity, which is now America’s largest installer of solar panels, and Tesla, the luxury electric car firm, which has revolutionised the motor industry.

His logic was that helping to wean the world off oil would buy us extra time to address global warming, should the colonisation of Mars take longer than expected.

Tangled love life

Wealth and success appear to have made the once geeky Musk very attractive to women.

But the entrepreneur is a proud and unapologetic workaholic who famously boasted ‘nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week’.

His first wife, Justine Wilson, a fantasy novelist whom he’d met at university, grew tired of spending all day at home with their five sons — a set of twins and triplets.

She announced around the time of their 2008 divorce: ‘Elon’s central relationship is with his work.’ Within weeks, Musk had moved on to the British actress Talulah Riley, whom he married, then divorced in 2012, remarried in 2013, but then divorced for a second time in 2015.

U.S. astronauts Doug Hurley and his crewmate Bob Behnken are the first astronauts to reach the ISS in a privately built rocket

U.S. astronauts Doug Hurley and his crewmate Bob Behnken are the first astronauts to reach the ISS in a privately built rocket

After a year-long dalliance with Johnny Depp’s ex, Hollywood actress Amber Heard, Musk began stepping out with a Canadian indie musician known as Grimes.

Their son, who was born earlier this month, made headlines after the couple attempted, for reasons best known to themselves, to register his name as ‘X Æ A-12’ (pronounced ‘Ex ash A twelve’). Californian authorities refused to play ball, on the grounds that it’s illegal to use numbers in a name, so the couple had to eventually make do with ‘X Æ A-Xii’.

In a recent interview, Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, told Bloomberg that around the house, the baby is actually known as ‘Little X’.

Digging a hole…

Stuck in a traffic jam just before Christmas 2016, Musk took to Twitter to declare ‘I am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging’, to create an alternative transport network deep underground in his home city of Los Angeles.

He duly launched The Boring Company, a firm designed to pursue that very aim.

Two years later, in June 2018, Musk decided that it could help save a dozen members of a youth football team trapped a vast cave complex in northern Thailand.

Musk arrived at the scene with a child-sized submarine, which he claimed would be able to act as a sort of escape pod.

However, experts were sceptical, with one rescue diver, a British national called Vernon Unsworth, telling CNN that the whole thing was a PR stunt and that the South African could ‘stick his submarine where it hurts’.

Musk responded via Twitter, branding Unsworth, who has a younger Thai partner, ‘pedo guy’.

The Briton responded by suing for defamation in California, seeking $190 million. In court, Musk apologised for the slur but alleged that he did not mean to suggest that Unsworth had actually molested a child.

The jury agreed, leading Musk to declare: ‘My faith in humanity is restored!’

SpaceX CEO and owner Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station

SpaceX CEO and owner Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station

Drink and drugs

Sending men into space is a dangerous and complex task that requires clear heads, sharp thinking, and an extraordinary eye for detail. Especially when American taxpayers are footing the bill.

All of which explains the almighty kerfuffle that ensued in September 2018, when a dishevelled-looking Musk appeared on a podcast and proceeded to drink copious quantities of whisky and smoke a large marijuana cigarette, while discussing his life and times.

Film of the appearance, in which the puce-faced tech tycoon coughed and spluttered his way through a haze of cannabis smoke, rapidly went viral, prompting Nasa to launch an urgent investigation into SpaceX’s ‘adherence to a drug-free environment’. The Pentagon decided to review his Federal security clearance.

Chastened, Musk shoehorned himself into a suit and tie for a more formal TV interview. ‘I do not smoke pot,’ he said. ‘As anyone who has watched that podcast could tell, I have no idea how to smoke pot.’

Erratic Tweets

Much like President Trump, Musk is a compulsive user of Twitter, posting endlessly on the site, often at odd hours of the day and night.

This does not always dovetail well with his role as boss of Tesla, a $150billion company traded on the Nasdaq, which can make market-sensitive information public only in strictly regulated circumstances.

Around the same time as the pot-smoking controversy, he suddenly used the social network to announce that he had ‘funding secured’ to take his car company Tesla private at $420 a share. The message may have been intended as a joke (‘420’ is slang for marijuana), but regulators did not see the funny side since Tesla shares were then trading at 20 per cent less than the supposed price.

An investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates U.S. markets, duly saw Musk charged with securities fraud.

In a settlement reached in late 2018, he agreed to step down as Tesla chairman for three years, pay a $20 million fine, and grant a company lawyer oversight of future Tweets.

Yet last month, Musk embarked on a lengthy rant on the site during which he promised to sell ‘almost all’ his physical possessions and declared that Tesla’s share price was ‘too high’, sending it down by nearly 12 per cent in half an hour.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to comment on what action, if any, it plans to take.

GUY ADAMS examines the life and times of Elon Musk


Except for one sticky moment when U.S. astronaut Doug Hurley appeared to clobber his head on an entry hatch as he crossed the threshold of the International Space Station, it all went like a dream.

At teatime yesterday, a 19-hour flight followed by a flawless piece of zero-orbit parking saw the Space X capsule reach its destination some 262 miles above Earth.

Watching was an audience of tens of millions bearing witness to a new chapter in space exploration: not only are Doug and his crewmate Bob Behnken the first Americans to fly from their own soil into space for almost nine years (in the interim, colleagues have been hitching pricey rides on Russian spacecraft) they are also the first astronauts to reach the ISS in a privately built rocket.

The pioneering duo blasted off from Titusville, Florida, on Saturday, watched by President Donald Trump and his deputy, Mike Pence. In the UK, the rocket was spotted passing below the moon just before 10pm.

Space X is the brainchild of Elon Musk (pictured left, with girlfriend Grime, right), a highly eccentric Silicon Valley tycoon who brought the world PayPal and Tesla cars, and is now devoting his $37 billion fortune to going where no man has gone before

En route, they enjoyed an eight-hour sleep, ate dinner and sent a short film back to Earth with footage of a ‘stowaway’: a toy dinosaur named Tremor the Apatosaurus, sent by their sons (aged six and ten) to keep them company. They will now spend up to four months at their destination.

To some, the so-far-successful mission recalls the heyday of American space exploration, when the world gathered round television sets to watch the likes of Neil Armstrong take giant leaps for mankind.

Yet the man behind this brave new era is no ordinary Nasa boffin.

Space X is the brainchild of Elon Musk, a highly eccentric Silicon Valley tycoon who brought the world PayPal and Tesla cars, and is now devoting his $37 billion fortune to going where no man has gone before.

Musk launched the firm in the early 2000s, announcing that he intends, within a few decades, not only to have put an astronaut on Mars, but also to be taking the first steps to establish a human colony there, thus ensuring mankind’s future, should Earth one day become uninhabitable.

Declaring himself ‘overcome with emotion’, he has, for now, managed to silence the doubters. So who is this eccentric rocket man?

Astronaut Bob Behnken arrives at the International Space Station and becomes one of two Americans to fly from their own soil into space for almost nine years

Astronaut Bob Behnken arrives at the International Space Station and becomes one of two Americans to fly from their own soil into space for almost nine years

A troubled Childhood

Nicknamed ‘genius boy’, Elon Musk purportedly read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica in early childhood and learned to ‘code’ at the age of ten, within days of acquiring a computer. By 12, he’d created and sold his first tech product, a video game called Blastar, for £500.

It was not, however, a happy childhood. The 48-year-old was born in apartheid-era South Africa, one of three children of engineer Errol Musk and his author wife, Maye. His parents divorced when he was eight.

At school, he was badly bullied, once beaten so badly he spent a fortnight in hospital. At home, things were barely better. Errol, from whom he’s been estranged for years, was a strict disciplinarian allegedly fond of corporal punishment. In 2018, it emerged that Errol had a fathered child with his stepdaughter Jana. Musk told Rolling Stone magazine that Errol is ‘a terrible human being’.

Off to AMERICA…

By the age of 17, Musk was desperate to escape South Africa and his overbearing dad, so decided to head for Canada, where his mother Maye had grown up.

He arrived without a penny to his name, relying on the generosity of relatives for accommodation and living for weeks at a time off economy-size bags of hot dogs.

Eventually, he won a place at the University of Pennsylvania to study Economics and Physics. After graduating, Musk headed west, to Silicon Valley, where in 1995 he was accepted onto a PhD course at the prestigious Stanford University. However, he dropped out during his first week to start a business called Zip2, which developed software for media companies.

The timing could not have been better: Zip2 rode the internet boom and was sold in 1999 for an astonishing $341 million, netting Musk a $22 million cut. But that was just the start . . .

Electric dreams

Musk proceeded to join the ranks of the global super-rich via his next bet: an online bank called X.com, which was eventually sold to eBay in 2002, earning him roughly $180 million —after tax.

The cash allowed him to dream big. That year he founded SpaceX, announcing that his end goal was to build a ‘BFR’ — or ‘Big F*****g Rocket’ — to help mankind colonise Mars before over-population renders Earth uninhabitable.

In 2003 and 2004, Musk also made timely bets on the alternative energy sector, founding a company called Solarcity, which is now America’s largest installer of solar panels, and Tesla, the luxury electric car firm, which has revolutionised the motor industry.

His logic was that helping to wean the world off oil would buy us extra time to address global warming, should the colonisation of Mars take longer than expected.

Tangled love life

Wealth and success appear to have made the once geeky Musk very attractive to women.

But the entrepreneur is a proud and unapologetic workaholic who famously boasted ‘nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week’.

His first wife, Justine Wilson, a fantasy novelist whom he’d met at university, grew tired of spending all day at home with their five sons — a set of twins and triplets.

She announced around the time of their 2008 divorce: ‘Elon’s central relationship is with his work.’ Within weeks, Musk had moved on to the British actress Talulah Riley, whom he married, then divorced in 2012, remarried in 2013, but then divorced for a second time in 2015.

U.S. astronauts Doug Hurley and his crewmate Bob Behnken are the first astronauts to reach the ISS in a privately built rocket

U.S. astronauts Doug Hurley and his crewmate Bob Behnken are the first astronauts to reach the ISS in a privately built rocket

After a year-long dalliance with Johnny Depp’s ex, Hollywood actress Amber Heard, Musk began stepping out with a Canadian indie musician known as Grimes.

Their son, who was born earlier this month, made headlines after the couple attempted, for reasons best known to themselves, to register his name as ‘X Æ A-12’ (pronounced ‘Ex ash A twelve’). Californian authorities refused to play ball, on the grounds that it’s illegal to use numbers in a name, so the couple had to eventually make do with ‘X Æ A-Xii’.

In a recent interview, Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, told Bloomberg that around the house, the baby is actually known as ‘Little X’.

Digging a hole…

Stuck in a traffic jam just before Christmas 2016, Musk took to Twitter to declare ‘I am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging’, to create an alternative transport network deep underground in his home city of Los Angeles.

He duly launched The Boring Company, a firm designed to pursue that very aim.

Two years later, in June 2018, Musk decided that it could help save a dozen members of a youth football team trapped a vast cave complex in northern Thailand.

Musk arrived at the scene with a child-sized submarine, which he claimed would be able to act as a sort of escape pod.

However, experts were sceptical, with one rescue diver, a British national called Vernon Unsworth, telling CNN that the whole thing was a PR stunt and that the South African could ‘stick his submarine where it hurts’.

Musk responded via Twitter, branding Unsworth, who has a younger Thai partner, ‘pedo guy’.

The Briton responded by suing for defamation in California, seeking $190 million. In court, Musk apologised for the slur but alleged that he did not mean to suggest that Unsworth had actually molested a child.

The jury agreed, leading Musk to declare: ‘My faith in humanity is restored!’

SpaceX CEO and owner Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station

SpaceX CEO and owner Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station

Drink and drugs

Sending men into space is a dangerous and complex task that requires clear heads, sharp thinking, and an extraordinary eye for detail. Especially when American taxpayers are footing the bill.

All of which explains the almighty kerfuffle that ensued in September 2018, when a dishevelled-looking Musk appeared on a podcast and proceeded to drink copious quantities of whisky and smoke a large marijuana cigarette, while discussing his life and times.

Film of the appearance, in which the puce-faced tech tycoon coughed and spluttered his way through a haze of cannabis smoke, rapidly went viral, prompting Nasa to launch an urgent investigation into SpaceX’s ‘adherence to a drug-free environment’. The Pentagon decided to review his Federal security clearance.

Chastened, Musk shoehorned himself into a suit and tie for a more formal TV interview. ‘I do not smoke pot,’ he said. ‘As anyone who has watched that podcast could tell, I have no idea how to smoke pot.’

Erratic Tweets

Much like President Trump, Musk is a compulsive user of Twitter, posting endlessly on the site, often at odd hours of the day and night.

This does not always dovetail well with his role as boss of Tesla, a $150billion company traded on the Nasdaq, which can make market-sensitive information public only in strictly regulated circumstances.

Around the same time as the pot-smoking controversy, he suddenly used the social network to announce that he had ‘funding secured’ to take his car company Tesla private at $420 a share. The message may have been intended as a joke (‘420’ is slang for marijuana), but regulators did not see the funny side since Tesla shares were then trading at 20 per cent less than the supposed price.

An investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates U.S. markets, duly saw Musk charged with securities fraud.

In a settlement reached in late 2018, he agreed to step down as Tesla chairman for three years, pay a $20 million fine, and grant a company lawyer oversight of future Tweets.

Yet last month, Musk embarked on a lengthy rant on the site during which he promised to sell ‘almost all’ his physical possessions and declared that Tesla’s share price was ‘too high’, sending it down by nearly 12 per cent in half an hour.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to comment on what action, if any, it plans to take.

Donald Trump leaves the White House with Melania to watch Elon Musk’s first manned spaceflight


President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday to watch the historic launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.  

Air Force One flew over the launch site before landing in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The Trumps had left the White House shortly after lunch, 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 

Air Force One flies over the Kennedy Space Center as the president and first lady arrive to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft take two American astronauts into space for the first time on U.S. soil for nine years

Air Force One flies over the Kennedy Space Center as the president and first lady arrive to watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft take two American astronauts into space for the first time on U.S. soil for nine years 

The Trumps walked together to Marine One Wednesday as they headed to the Kennedy Space Center to see the historic SpaceX-NASA launch

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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)

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 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

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

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

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

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. It’s also the first time the rocket has been made by a private company. 

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. 

Donald Trump leaves the White House with Melania to watch Elon Musk’s first manned spaceflight


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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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)

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 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

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

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

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

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. 

Does Elon Musk have the right stuff? Billionaire will blast two astronauts into space TODAY


Internet mogul Elon Musk today prepares to blast two astronauts into space in SpaceX’s $4 billion touch-screen spaceship, beginning a new era of privatised exploration.

Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will take a Tesla ride across Kennedy Space Center in their Hollywood-inspired ‘Starman’ suits and tap into their Falcon 9 rocket ship using a touch pad.

The Falcon 9’s launch is scheduled for 4.33pm (8.33pm GMT) and if all goes to plan, SpaceX will become the first private company to put astronauts into orbit, something achieved by just three countries – Russia, the US and China. 

President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence will be at Kennedy to watch the first manned flight from US soil in nine years, with the weather looking 60 percent favorable, despite earlier fears of thunderstorms.

The new Crew Dragon capsule will take off from Launch Pad 39A, the same from which Neil Armstrong and his Apollo crewmates left for their historic journey to the Moon.

Behnken, 49, and Hurley, 53, are former USAF pilots who both achieved the rank of colonel and they were accepted to the NASA astronaut class of 2020. Both have been to space twice, before NASA’s space shuttle was retired in 2011.  

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The ship stands at nearly 230ft tall and burns cryogenic liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) to give the grunt to launch as much as 25 tons into a low orbit around Earth. After ignition, a hold-before-release system ensures that all engines are verified for full-thrust performance before the rocket is released for flight. Then, with thrust greater than five 747s at full power, the Merlin engines launch the rocket to space, but unlike a 747 engine, the rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude.

Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken (pictured during training) will take a Tesla ride across Kennedy Space Center in their Hollywood-inspired 'Starman' suits and tap into their Falcon 9 rocket ship using a touch pad

Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken (pictured during training) will take a Tesla ride across Kennedy Space Center in their Hollywood-inspired ‘Starman’ suits and tap into their Falcon 9 rocket ship using a touch pad

Falcon 9 generates just over 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage to limit acceleration as the rocket's mass decreases with the burning of fuel. The Falcon 9 then releases the lower section of the rocket called 'the booster,' using a fully-pneumatic system, as opposed to traditional pyrotechnic systems. The remaining single Merlin vacuum engine then delivers the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS

Falcon 9 generates just over 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage to limit acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel. The Falcon 9 then releases the lower section of the rocket called ‘the booster,’ using a fully-pneumatic system, as opposed to traditional pyrotechnic systems. The remaining single Merlin vacuum engine then delivers the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS

Behnken, 49, (left) and Hurley, 53, are former USAF pilots who both achieved the rank of colonel and they were accepted to the NASA astronaut class of 2020. Both have been to space twice, before NASA's space shuttle was retired in 2011.

Behnken, 49, (left) and Hurley, 53, are former USAF pilots who both achieved the rank of colonel and they were accepted to the NASA astronaut class of 2020. Both have been to space twice, before NASA’s space shuttle was retired in 2011.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 is named after the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, the number 9 refers to the nine Merlin engines which power the first stage of its flight; with another Merlin vacuum engine powering the second stage

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is named after the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, the number 9 refers to the nine Merlin engines which power the first stage of its flight; with another Merlin vacuum engine powering the second stage 

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is named after the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, the number 9 refers to the nine Merlin engines which power the first stage of its flight; with another Merlin vacuum engine powering the second stage. 

The ship stands at nearly 230ft tall and burns cryogenic liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) to give the grunt to launch as much as 25 tons into a low orbit around Earth.  

After ignition, a hold-before-release system ensures that all engines are verified for full-thrust performance before the rocket is released for flight.

Then, with thrust greater than five 747s at full power, the Merlin engines launch the rocket to space, but unlike a 747 engine, the rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude.

Falcon 9 generates just over 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage to limit acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel. 

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is shown above alongside its position on the Falcon 9 rocket

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is shown above alongside its position on the Falcon 9 rocket

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon capsule on top of the rocket, is raised onto Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at Cape Canaveral, Florida

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon capsule on top of the rocket, is raised onto Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at Cape Canaveral, Florida

The capsule is designed to carry seven crew and the the controls are centered around touch screens which are compatible with the gloves used by the astronauts in their space suits.

The capsule is designed to carry seven crew and the the controls are centered around touch screens which are compatible with the gloves used by the astronauts in their space suits.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 25, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 25, 2020

The Falcon 9 then releases the lower section of the rocket called ‘the booster,’ using a fully-pneumatic system, as opposed to traditional pyrotechnic systems.

The remaining single Merlin vacuum engine then delivers the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS.    

The Crew Dragon capsule, evolved from SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon capsule, sits at the nose of the rocket.

After the Falcon 9 launch, the lower section of the rocket called ‘the booster, will detach and fall back through Earth’s atmosphere. A SpaceX drone ship in the sea will then attempt to retrieve the multi-million dollar booster.   

The capsule is just under 27ft tall and 13ft wide and includes its own system of 16 small ‘Draco’ rocket engines for finer directional control in space and if necessary should it need to abort. Each Draco thruster is capable of generating 90 pounds of force in the vacuum of space.

It is designed to carry seven crew and the the controls are centered around touch screens which are compatible with the gloves used by the astronauts in their space suits. 

All of Falcon 9’s structures, engines, separation systems, ground systems, and most avionics were designed, manufactured, and tested in the United States by SpaceX. 

The ‘Starman’ space suit

It is jointly designed by Jose Fernandez, a costume designer known for his work on the Marvel series and Tron: Legacy, and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. The concept was then reverse engineered by SpaceX engineers.

A mannequin called ‘Starman’ (named after David Bowie’s song) wore the space suit during the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy (cargo ship) in February 2018. For the exhibition launch, the suit was not pressurized and carried no sensors.

Behnken and Hurley will don the tailor made suits which have been designed specifically for use in the Dragon capsule.

Bob Behnken in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The suits are made from 'Nomex' a fire retardant fabric similar to Kevlar. The helmets, which are 3D-printed, contain microphones and speakers.

Bob Behnken in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The suits are made from ‘Nomex’ a fire retardant fabric similar to Kevlar. The helmets, which are 3D-printed, contain microphones and speakers.

These are IVA-type suits (intravehicular activity) meaning they are not suitable for use outside the ship and don’t provide protection against radiation.

However, the suit is suitable for a vacuum and can also protect the astronauts against rapid cabin depressurization through a tether at the thigh which has air and electronic connectors. The suits also provide the astronauts with their own custom air conditioning systems so they can stay cool or warm.

The suits are made from ‘Nomex’ a fire retardant fabric similar to Kevlar. The helmets, which are 3D-printed, contain microphones and speakers. 

Hurley in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are IVA-type suits (intravehicular activity) meaning they are not suitable for use outside the ship and don't provide protection against radiation.

Hurley in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are IVA-type suits (intravehicular activity) meaning they are not suitable for use outside the ship and don’t provide protection against radiation.

Who is Elon Musk and what is SpaceX? 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was founded in 2002 by the Marijuana-smoking tycoon and innovator, Elon Musk. Gradually, the 48-year-old has earned the trust of the planet’s largest space agency. 

By 2012, SpaceX had become the first private company to dock a cargo capsule at the ISS, resupplying the station regularly ever since. It charges NASA $62 million for a standard Falcon 9 trip.

In 2014, NASA ordered the next step: to transport its astronauts there, starting in 2017, by adapting the Dragon capsule.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was founded in 2002 by the Marijuana-smoking tycoon and innovator, Elon Musk. Gradually, the 48-year-old has earned the trust of the planet's largest space agency.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was founded in 2002 by the Marijuana-smoking tycoon and innovator, Elon Musk. Gradually, the 48-year-old has earned the trust of the planet’s largest space agency.

Earlier this month Musk’s 32-year-old girlfriend, the singer Grimes, gave birth to a son they named X Æ A-Xii, and he has recently been urging his Twitter followers to ‘take the red pill.’

The Matrix reference, which has been re-appropriated by supporters of Donald Trump, earned Musk the praise of Trump’s children, Ivanka and Don Jr.

His bizarre Twitter rants have also put him on unclear legal footing of late. Stocks of his electric car company Tesla (founded in 2003) went into freefall at the beginning of the month after he tweeted: ‘Tesla stock price is too high imo.’

Afterwards $14billion was wiped from the company’s market capitalization and $3 billion from Musk’s net worth. 

Musk, who has been an outspoken opponent of coronavirus lockdown restrictions that have shuttered Tesla’s key factory in Fremont, California, is currently bound by a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that required Tesla to put in place ‘controls and procedures’ to oversee the CEO’s tweets.   

Musk raised eyebrows when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience last year, where he accepted a marijuana blunt from the host and then puffed on it

Musk raised eyebrows when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience last year, where he accepted a marijuana blunt from the host and then puffed on it

Why is the US going private?  

‘SpaceX would not be here without NASA,’ said Musk last year, after a successful dress rehearsal without humans for the trip to the ISS.

The space agency paid more than $3 billion for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable capsule for six future space round trips. SpaceX has made its own contributions in excess of $500 million.

The development has experienced delays, explosions, and parachute problems – but even so SpaceX has beaten the aviation giant Boeing to the punch.

NASA is also paying Boeing to build its own capsule, the Starliner, which is still not ready.

The move by NASA to invest in privately-developed spacecraft — a more economic proposition than spending tens of billions of dollars developing such systems itself, as it had done for decades — was started under the presidency of George W. Bush for cargo, and later under Barack Obama for human flight.

Photographers set up remote cameras as the SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon crew capsule, is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Photographers set up remote cameras as the SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon crew capsule, is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with Dragon crew capsule is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with Dragon crew capsule is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

‘Some have said it is unfeasible or unwise to work with the private sector in this way. I disagree,’ Obama said in 2010 at the Kennedy Space Center.

At the time, there was immense hostility in Congress and NASA to the start-up’s claims of what it could achieve.

A decade on it is another president, Trump, who will attend Wednesday’s launch in Florida.

The Republican is trying to reaffirm American domination of space, militarily but also by having ordered a return to the Moon in 2024.

If NASA could entrust ‘low Earth orbit’ space travel to the private sector, it would free up dollars for its more distant missions.

‘We envision a future where low Earth orbit is entirely commercialized where NASA is one customer of many customers,’ said Jim Bridenstine, the agency’s administrator.

‘If we keep using American taxpayer dollars … we’ll never get to the Moon and on to Mars.’

It has rained a lot in Florida in recent days, and Cape Canaveral forecasters estimated Tuesday the risk of unfavourable weather on Wednesday at 40 percent.

This photo provided by Maxar's WorldView-3 satellite shows an overview of Launch Pad 39A and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. NASA is preparing for its first manned flight in nearly a decade from the United States. (Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies via AP)

This photo provided by Maxar’s WorldView-3 satellite shows an overview of Launch Pad 39A and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. NASA is preparing for its first manned flight in nearly a decade from the United States. (Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies via AP)

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A Monday, May 25, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A Monday, May 25, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

If necessary, the flight will be postponed to Saturday.

Crew Dragon is a capsule like Apollo, but updated for the 21st century.

Touch screens have replaced switches. The interior is dominated by white, more subtle lighting.

It looks entirely different to the enormous space shuttles, huge winged vehicles that carried astronauts into space from US soil from 1981 to 2011.

‘We’re expecting a smooth ride but we’re expecting a loud ride,’ said Behnken, who, like Hurley, also flew in the shuttles twice.

Unlike the shuttles, one of which – the Challenger – exploded in 1986 after take-off, Dragon can eject in an emergency if the Falcon 9 rocket has a problem.

Crew Dragon will catch up with the station on Thursday at an altitude of 400 kilometers, and will probably remain docked there until August.

If it fulfils its mission and is certified safe, it will mean the Americans will no longer depend on the Russians for access to space: since 2011, the Russian Soyuz rockets were the only space taxis available.

Launches will become a regular occurrence in Florida again, with four astronauts aboard.

A Japanese astronaut is set to be on the following trip. NASA would like a Russian cosmonaut to join next.

Douglas Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen inside a Tesla car as they depart for Launch Complex 39A during a launch dress rehearsal on May 23, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Douglas Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen inside a Tesla car as they depart for Launch Complex 39A during a launch dress rehearsal on May 23, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida 

Does Elon Musk have the right stuff? Billionaire will blast two astronauts into space TODAY


Internet mogul Elon Musk today prepares to blast two astronauts into space in SpaceX’s $4 billion touch-screen spaceship, beginning a new era of privatised exploration.

Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will take a Tesla ride across Kennedy Space Center in their Hollywood-inspired ‘Starman’ suits and tap into their Falcon 9 rocket ship using a touch pad.

The Falcon 9’s launch is scheduled for 4.33pm (8.33pm GMT) and if all goes to plan, SpaceX will become the first private company to put astronauts into orbit, something achieved by just three countries – Russia, the US and China. 

President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence will be at Kennedy to watch the first manned flight from US soil in nine years, with the weather looking 60 percent favorable, despite earlier fears of thunderstorms.

The new Crew Dragon capsule will take off from Launch Pad 39A, the same from which Neil Armstrong and his Apollo crewmates left for their historic journey to the Moon.

Behnken, 49, and Hurley, 53, are former USAF pilots who both achieved the rank of colonel and they were accepted to the NASA astronaut class of 2020. Both have been to space twice, before NASA’s space shuttle was retired in 2011.  

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The ship stands at nearly 230ft tall and burns cryogenic liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) to give the grunt to launch as much as 25 tons into a low orbit around Earth. After ignition, a hold-before-release system ensures that all engines are verified for full-thrust performance before the rocket is released for flight. Then, with thrust greater than five 747s at full power, the Merlin engines launch the rocket to space, but unlike a 747 engine, the rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude.

Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken (pictured during training) will take a Tesla ride across Kennedy Space Center in their Hollywood-inspired 'Starman' suits and tap into their Falcon 9 rocket ship using a touch pad

Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken (pictured during training) will take a Tesla ride across Kennedy Space Center in their Hollywood-inspired ‘Starman’ suits and tap into their Falcon 9 rocket ship using a touch pad

Falcon 9 generates just over 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage to limit acceleration as the rocket's mass decreases with the burning of fuel. The Falcon 9 then releases the lower section of the rocket called 'the booster,' using a fully-pneumatic system, as opposed to traditional pyrotechnic systems. The remaining single Merlin vacuum engine then delivers the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS

Falcon 9 generates just over 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage to limit acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel. The Falcon 9 then releases the lower section of the rocket called ‘the booster,’ using a fully-pneumatic system, as opposed to traditional pyrotechnic systems. The remaining single Merlin vacuum engine then delivers the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS

Behnken, 49, (left) and Hurley, 53, are former USAF pilots who both achieved the rank of colonel and they were accepted to the NASA astronaut class of 2020. Both have been to space twice, before NASA's space shuttle was retired in 2011.

Behnken, 49, (left) and Hurley, 53, are former USAF pilots who both achieved the rank of colonel and they were accepted to the NASA astronaut class of 2020. Both have been to space twice, before NASA’s space shuttle was retired in 2011.

NASA's first crewed mission in nine years

NASA’s first crewed mission in nine years

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is named after the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, the number 9 refers to the nine Merlin engines which power the first stage of its flight; with another Merlin vacuum engine powering the second stage. 

The ship stands at nearly 230ft tall and burns cryogenic liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) to give the grunt to launch as much as 25 tons into a low orbit around Earth.  

After ignition, a hold-before-release system ensures that all engines are verified for full-thrust performance before the rocket is released for flight.

Then, with thrust greater than five 747s at full power, the Merlin engines launch the rocket to space, but unlike a 747 engine, the rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude.

Falcon 9 generates just over 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage to limit acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel. 

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon capsule on top of the rocket, is raised onto Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at Cape Canaveral, Florida

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon capsule on top of the rocket, is raised onto Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at Cape Canaveral, Florida

The capsule is designed to carry seven crew and the the controls are centered around touch screens which are compatible with the gloves used by the astronauts in their space suits.

The capsule is designed to carry seven crew and the the controls are centered around touch screens which are compatible with the gloves used by the astronauts in their space suits.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 25, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 25, 2020

The Falcon 9 then releases the lower section of the rocket called ‘the booster,’ using a fully-pneumatic system, as opposed to traditional pyrotechnic systems.

The remaining single Merlin vacuum engine then delivers the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS.    

The Crew Dragon capsule, evolved from SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon capsule, sits at the nose of the rocket.

After the Falcon 9 launch, the lower section of the rocket called ‘the booster, will detach and fall back through Earth’s atmosphere. A SpaceX drone ship in the sea will then attempt to retrieve the multi-million dollar booster.   

The capsule is just under 27ft tall and 13ft wide and includes its own system of 16 small ‘Draco’ rocket engines for finer directional control in space and if necessary should it need to abort. Each Draco thruster is capable of generating 90 pounds of force in the vacuum of space.

It is designed to carry seven crew and the the controls are centered around touch screens which are compatible with the gloves used by the astronauts in their space suits. 

All of Falcon 9’s structures, engines, separation systems, ground systems, and most avionics were designed, manufactured, and tested in the United States by SpaceX. 

The ‘Starman’ space suit

It is jointly designed by Jose Fernandez, a costume designer known for his work on the Marvel series and Tron: Legacy, and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. The concept was then reverse engineered by SpaceX engineers.

A mannequin called ‘Starman’ (named after David Bowie’s song) wore the space suit during the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy (cargo ship) in February 2018. For the exhibition launch, the suit was not pressurized and carried no sensors.

Behnken and Hurley will don the tailor made suits which have been designed specifically for use in the Dragon capsule.

Bob Behnken in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The suits are made from 'Nomex' a fire retardant fabric similar to Kevlar. The helmets, which are 3D-printed, contain microphones and speakers.

Bob Behnken in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The suits are made from ‘Nomex’ a fire retardant fabric similar to Kevlar. The helmets, which are 3D-printed, contain microphones and speakers.

These are IVA-type suits (intravehicular activity) meaning they are not suitable for use outside the ship and don’t provide protection against radiation.

However, the suit is suitable for a vacuum and can also protect the astronauts against rapid cabin depressurization through a tether at the thigh which has air and electronic connectors. The suits also provide the astronauts with their own custom air conditioning systems so they can stay cool or warm.

The suits are made from ‘Nomex’ a fire retardant fabric similar to Kevlar. The helmets, which are 3D-printed, contain microphones and speakers. 

Hurley in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are IVA-type suits (intravehicular activity) meaning they are not suitable for use outside the ship and don't provide protection against radiation.

Hurley in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. These are IVA-type suits (intravehicular activity) meaning they are not suitable for use outside the ship and don’t provide protection against radiation.

Who is Elon Musk and what is SpaceX? 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was founded in 2002 by the Marijuana-smoking tycoon and innovator, Elon Musk. Gradually, the 48-year-old has earned the trust of the planet’s largest space agency. 

By 2012, SpaceX had become the first private company to dock a cargo capsule at the ISS, resupplying the station regularly ever since. It charges NASA $62 million for a standard Falcon 9 trip.

In 2014, NASA ordered the next step: to transport its astronauts there, starting in 2017, by adapting the Dragon capsule.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was founded in 2002 by the Marijuana-smoking tycoon and innovator, Elon Musk. Gradually, the 48-year-old has earned the trust of the planet's largest space agency.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was founded in 2002 by the Marijuana-smoking tycoon and innovator, Elon Musk. Gradually, the 48-year-old has earned the trust of the planet’s largest space agency.

Earlier this month Musk’s 32-year-old girlfriend, the singer Grimes, gave birth to a son they named X Æ A-Xii, and he has recently been urging his Twitter followers to ‘take the red pill.’

The Matrix reference, which has been re-appropriated by supporters of Donald Trump, earned Musk the praise of Trump’s children, Ivanka and Don Jr.

His bizarre Twitter rants have also put him on unclear legal footing of late. Stocks of his electric car company Tesla (founded in 2003) went into freefall at the beginning of the month after he tweeted: ‘Tesla stock price is too high imo.’

Afterwards $14billion was wiped from the company’s market capitalization and $3 billion from Musk’s net worth. 

Musk, who has been an outspoken opponent of coronavirus lockdown restrictions that have shuttered Tesla’s key factory in Fremont, California, is currently bound by a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that required Tesla to put in place ‘controls and procedures’ to oversee the CEO’s tweets.   

Musk raised eyebrows when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience in September, where he accepted a marijuana blunt from the host and then puffed on it

Musk raised eyebrows when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience in September, where he accepted a marijuana blunt from the host and then puffed on it

Why is the US going private?  

‘SpaceX would not be here without NASA,’ said Musk last year, after a successful dress rehearsal without humans for the trip to the ISS.

The space agency paid more than $3 billion for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable capsule for six future space round trips. SpaceX has made its own contributions in excess of $500 million.

The development has experienced delays, explosions, and parachute problems – but even so SpaceX has beaten the aviation giant Boeing to the punch.

NASA is also paying Boeing to build its own capsule, the Starliner, which is still not ready.

The move by NASA to invest in privately-developed spacecraft — a more economic proposition than spending tens of billions of dollars developing such systems itself, as it had done for decades — was started under the presidency of George W. Bush for cargo, and later under Barack Obama for human flight.

Photographers set up remote cameras as the SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon crew capsule, is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Photographers set up remote cameras as the SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Dragon crew capsule, is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

‘Some have said it is unfeasible or unwise to work with the private sector in this way. I disagree,’ Obama said in 2010 at the Kennedy Space Center.

At the time, there was immense hostility in Congress and NASA to the start-up’s claims of what it could achieve.

A decade on it is another president, Trump, who will attend Wednesday’s launch in Florida.

The Republican is trying to reaffirm American domination of space, militarily but also by having ordered a return to the Moon in 2024.

If NASA could entrust ‘low Earth orbit’ space travel to the private sector, it would free up dollars for its more distant missions.

‘We envision a future where low Earth orbit is entirely commercialized where NASA is one customer of many customers,’ said Jim Bridenstine, the agency’s administrator.

‘If we keep using American taxpayer dollars … we’ll never get to the Moon and on to Mars.’

It has rained a lot in Florida in recent days, and Cape Canaveral forecasters estimated Tuesday the risk of unfavourable weather on Wednesday at 40 percent.

If necessary, the flight will be postponed to Saturday.

Crew Dragon is a capsule like Apollo, but updated for the 21st century.

Touch screens have replaced switches. The interior is dominated by white, more subtle lighting.

It looks entirely different to the enormous space shuttles, huge winged vehicles that carried astronauts into space from US soil from 1981 to 2011.

‘We’re expecting a smooth ride but we’re expecting a loud ride,’ said Behnken, who, like Hurley, also flew in the shuttles twice.

Unlike the shuttles, one of which – the Challenger – exploded in 1986 after take-off, Dragon can eject in an emergency if the Falcon 9 rocket has a problem.

Crew Dragon will catch up with the station on Thursday at an altitude of 400 kilometers, and will probably remain docked there until August.

If it fulfils its mission and is certified safe, it will mean the Americans will no longer depend on the Russians for access to space: since 2011, the Russian Soyuz rockets were the only space taxis available.

Launches will become a regular occurrence in Florida again, with four astronauts aboard.

A Japanese astronaut is set to be on the following trip. NASA would like a Russian cosmonaut to join next.

Douglas Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen inside a Tesla car as they depart for Launch Complex 39A during a launch dress rehearsal on May 23, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Douglas Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen inside a Tesla car as they depart for Launch Complex 39A during a launch dress rehearsal on May 23, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida 

Mike Pence leaves Washington D.C. for a mask-free burger lunch with Florida governor Ron DeSantis


Vice President Mike Pence appeared bare-faced at a burger bar alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday on a trip to Orlando to tout economic reopening. 

Pence’s last trip out of Washington was delayed by the news that one of his top aides, spokeswoman Katie Miller, had contracted COVID-19.  

And while Pence spent several days keeping his distance from President Trump, he did not social distance during his tour of Florida Wednesday, though briefly put on a mask to address nursing home workers from 20 feet away. 

Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) sit and wait for their foord at Beth’s Burger Bar in Orlando. Neither wore a mask into the restaurant 

Beth's Burger Bar owner Beth Steele (left) asked Vice President Mike Pence (center) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) for their burger preferences as she says the peanut butter burger is her top seller

Beth’s Burger Bar owner Beth Steele (left) asked Vice President Mike Pence (center) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) for their burger preferences as she says the peanut butter burger is her top seller 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) took off their masks to address reporters after giving more PPE to an Orlando nursing home facility

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) took off their masks to address reporters after giving more PPE to an Orlando nursing home facility 

As soon as he stopped talking to the workers, and with the home’s director of nursing – in a mask – along his side, he peeled off his face covering to briefly address reporters. 

DeSantis followed suit. 

Washington-based reporters traveling with the vice president were tested for the virus the day before. 

Pence didn’t wear a mask during other moments as well. He greeted mask-less first responders at the Orlando International Airport’s tarmac with a bare face and an elbow bump. He also didn’t wear a mask to a roundtable event with travel industry leaders later Wednedsay afternoon.  

Pence was trying to convey a sense of normalcy, as he sauntered into Beth’s Burger Bar and chatted with the owner Beth Steele about her best-selling peanut butter burger and how he preferred his burger – not spicy, with pickles and cheese.  

Pence and his entourage of DeSantis, Administrator Seema Verma, and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia didn’t wear masks to the lunch spot. 

Neither did Steele and some of the restaurant workers who waited on the vice president. 

Florida’s reopening plan doesn’t force patrons to wear masks. It also makes masks for food service employees optional. 

Pence’s presence was calm, as he praised Florida for ‘leading the way.’ 

DeSantis, on the other hand, acted defensively for most of the day. 

When a reporter asked about a controversial firing of a staffer who had worked on Florida’s COVID-19 database, DeSantis turned the query into an attack on the media’s coverage of his handling of the pandemic. 

‘Our data is available, our data is transparent – in fact Dr. [Deborah] Birx has talked multiple times about how Florida has the absolute data,’ DeSantis began, referencing a top doctor from the White House’s coronavirus taskforce. ‘So any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun.’  

‘And part of the reason is that because you got a lot of people in your profession, who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was gonna be just like New York. “Wait two weeks, Florida’s gonna be next. Just like Italy, wait to weeks,”‘ DeSantis continued. 

‘Well, hell, we’re eight weeks away from that and it hasn’t happened,’ DeSantis said, raising his voice. 

DeSantis pointed out that Florida has a lower death rate than broad swaths of the country. 

‘We have a lower death rate than the Acela corridor, D.C., everyone up there. We have a lower death rate that the Midwest – Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio,’ he continued. ‘But even in our region: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia – Florida has the lower death rate.’  

Florida also saw ‘tens of thousands’ of people coming in from the world’s ‘hot zone,’ DeSantis said, though didn’t elaborate where.  

‘So we’ve succeeded,’ the Republican governor said. ‘And I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative. It challenges their assumption, so they’ve got to try to find a Boogeyman – maybe it says there are black helicopters circling the Department of Health.’

‘If you believe that, I got a bridge in Brooklyn, I’d like to sell you,’ he scoffed.  

Mike Pence leaves Washington D.C. for a mask-free burger lunch with Florida governor Ron DeSantis


Vice President Mike Pence appeared bare-faced at a burger bar alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday on a trip to Orlando to tout economic reopening. 

Pence’s last trip out of Washington was delayed by the news that one of his top aides, spokeswoman Katie Miller, had contracted COVID-19.  

And while Pence spent several days keeping his distance from President Trump, he did not social distance during his tour of Florida Wednesday, though briefly put on a mask to address nursing home workers from 20 feet away. 

Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) sit and wait for their foord at Beth’s Burger Bar in Orlando. Neither wore a mask into the restaurant 

Beth's Burger Bar owner Beth Steele (left) asked Vice President Mike Pence (center) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) for their burger preferences as she says the peanut butter burger is her top seller

Beth’s Burger Bar owner Beth Steele (left) asked Vice President Mike Pence (center) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) for their burger preferences as she says the peanut butter burger is her top seller 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) took off their masks to address reporters after giving more PPE to an Orlando nursing home facility

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) took off their masks to address reporters after giving more PPE to an Orlando nursing home facility 

As soon as he stopped talking to the workers, and with the home’s director of nursing – in a mask – along his side, he peeled off his face covering to briefly address reporters. 

DeSantis followed suit. 

Washington-based reporters traveling with the vice president were tested for the virus the day before. 

Pence didn’t wear a mask during other moments as well. He greeted mask-less first responders at the Orlando International Airport’s tarmac with a bare face and an elbow bump. He also didn’t wear a mask to a roundtable event with travel industry leaders later Wednedsay afternoon.  

Pence was trying to convey a sense of normalcy, as he sauntered into Beth’s Burger Bar and chatted with the owner Beth Steele about her best-selling peanut butter burger and how he preferred his burger – not spicy, with pickles and cheese.  

Pence and his entourage of DeSantis, Administrator Seema Verma, and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia didn’t wear masks to the lunch spot. 

Neither did Steele and some of the restaurant workers who waited on the vice president. 

Florida’s reopening plan doesn’t force patrons to wear masks. It also makes masks for food service employees optional. 

Pence’s presence was calm, as he praised Florida for ‘leading the way.’ 

DeSantis, on the other hand, acted defensively for most of the day. 

When a reporter asked about a controversial firing of a staffer who had worked on Florida’s COVID-19 database, DeSantis turned the query into an attack on the media’s coverage of his handling of the pandemic. 

‘Our data is available, our data is transparent – in fact Dr. [Deborah] Birx has talked multiple times about how Florida has the absolute data,’ DeSantis began, referencing a top doctor from the White House’s coronavirus taskforce. ‘So any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun.’  

‘And part of the reason is that because you got a lot of people in your profession, who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was gonna be just like New York. “Wait two weeks, Florida’s gonna be next. Just like Italy, wait to weeks,”‘ DeSantis continued. 

‘Well, hell, we’re eight weeks away from that and it hasn’t happened,’ DeSantis said, raising his voice. 

DeSantis pointed out that Florida has a lower death rate than broad swaths of the country. 

‘We have a lower death rate than the Acela corridor, D.C., everyone up there. We have a lower death rate that the Midwest – Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio,’ he continued. ‘But even in our region: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia – Florida has the lower death rate.’  

Florida also saw ‘tens of thousands’ of people coming in from the world’s ‘hot zone,’ DeSantis said, though didn’t elaborate where.  

‘So we’ve succeeded,’ the Republican governor said. ‘And I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative. It challenges their assumption, so they’ve got to try to find a Boogeyman – maybe it says there are black helicopters circling the Department of Health.’

‘If you believe that, I got a bridge in Brooklyn, I’d like to sell you,’ he scoffed.  

Coronavirus: Trump avoids Pence to keep Pelosi from presidency


Vice President Mike Pence was spotted at the White House on Tuesday wearing a face mask amid concerns about a coronavirus cluster at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Pence made a ‘personal decision’ to stay away from President Donald Trump after a coronavirus outbreak on his staff, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday. 

‘The vice president has made the choice to keep his distance for a few days, and I would note that that’s his personal decision to make as to how many days he does it, that’s a decision for the vice president,’ she said at her press briefing.

Vice President Mike Pence was spotted arriving at the White House on Tuesday wearing a face mask

Vice President Mike Pence made a 'personal decision' to stay away from President Donald Trump, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Vice President Mike Pence made a ‘personal decision’ to stay away from President Donald Trump, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Trump and Pence are keeping their distance from one another in order to prevent a scenario where Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take charge after the vice president’s press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus.

The two men are ‘maintaining some distance for the immediate future on consultation from the White House medical unit,’ a senior administration official told DailyMail.com. 

Should the president and vice president die or become incapacitated, the speaker of the House becomes president, as outlined in the order of succession in the constitution. 

‘We must be very careful. Crazy Nancy would be a total disaster, and the USA will never be a Communist Country!,’ Trump tweeted on Tuesday, in response to a tweet that noted Pelosi is third in line should the president and Pence become incapacitated by the coronavirus. 

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are keeping their distance from one another after a Pence aide tested positive for coronavirus

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are keeping their distance from one another after a Pence aide tested positive for coronavirus

If either President Trump or Vice President Pence dies or is incapacitated, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take charge

If either President Trump or Vice President Pence dies or is incapacitated, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take charge

President Trump and Vice President Pence were last together on Thursday

President Trump and Vice President Pence were last together on Thursday 

President Trump has previously brushed aside questions about whether he and Pence should maintain a distance in order to preserve the chain of command should one of them become infected with the coronavirus.

But that has changed after Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive for the disease last week. 

The change is already in effect. Pence was not at Trump’s press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, which was unusual given that, in the past, he was a regular attendee. The two were last seen together at the White House on Thursday. 

Trump noted at his press conference on Monday he hadn’t seen Pence since Miller was diagnosed.  

‘I have not seen him since then,’ the president said and he indicated some separate policy was going to go into effect. ‘We could talk on the phone.’ 

During a call with governors on Monday, Pence told them he was taking extra precautions and was participating on the call ‘in a separate room on my own’ during while Dr. Deborah Birx was ‘in a situation room with some staff,’ according to CNN, which obtained audio of the call.

Pence’s office is across the street from the West Wing in the Old Executive Office Building, making it easy to keep the two leaders separate. He was in that office on Monday and wore a face mask, ABC News reported.  

Monday saw the new safety protocols in effect at the White House as several aides – including senior adviser Jared Kushner and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany – wore masks for the first time in public at the president’s press conference in the Rose Garden.

McEnany was not wearing a face mask during her briefingTuesday despite new guidance recommending White House staffers wear one.

She said it was because she was a safe distance from the media and has tested negative for the coronavirus. She was seen wearing a face mask at the White House on Monday.

McEnany said she was an ‘appropriate distance away. I had a negative test today and a negative test yesterday and I’m in an okay place.’

Pelosi wears a mask on Capitol Hill and has heeded to social distancing guidelines.  

White House staff were told Monday they must wear a mask at all times when they enter or move around the building, after a coronavirus cluster started at the complex. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also wore a mask at the press conference, as did deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley.  

‘Just about everybody has a face mask on,’ President Trump observed at the news conference, where the president used his own podium that he did not have to share with other officials who spoke. Reporters asked him questions speaking through masks of their own, and bending over so their voices could get picked up by shared microphones they did not touch. 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (L) wears a face mask during a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (L) wears a face mask during a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC

White House senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner wears a protective face mask in the Rose Garden as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a coronavirus disease

White House senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner wears a protective face mask in the Rose Garden as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a coronavirus disease

No mask: President Donald Trump defended his administration's record on testing as he unveiled equipment at the White House - but unlike his staff he did not wear a mask

No mask: President Donald Trump defended his administration’s record on testing as he unveiled equipment at the White House – but unlike his staff he did not wear a mask

Masked officials: White House press secretary Kayleih McEnany (left) as well as technical support staff were all wearing masks for the first time

Masked officials: White House press secretary Kayleih McEnany (left) as well as technical support staff were all wearing masks for the first time

Jared masked: The president's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner followed the new protocol brought in after the president's valet and Mike Pence's press secretary tested positive for coronavirus

Jared masked: The president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner followed the new protocol brought in after the president’s valet and Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for coronavirus

Obeying the rules: Jared Kushner wore a mask throughout the press briefing

Obeying the rules: Jared Kushner wore a mask throughout the press briefing 

Distanced audience: The White House put newly-masked officials in front of a rple line and reporters behind for the press conference

Distanced audience: The White House put newly-masked officials in front of a rple line and reporters behind for the press conference 

Masks are the new uniform: White House staffers finally caught up with other workplaces Monday and lined up at a Rose Garden press conference to cover up - although not all stood six feet apart

Masks are the new uniform: White House staffers finally caught up with other workplaces Monday and lined up at a Rose Garden press conference to cover up – although not all stood six feet apart

Protective detail: Secret Service agents were also spotted in masks for the first time during the president's press conference

Protective detail: Secret Service agents were also spotted in masks for the first time during the president’s press conference

Rose Garden cover-up: White House staff members wore masks to listen to their boss speak at a press briefing, the first time new rules have been in place since two positive diagnoses at the White House

Rose Garden cover-up: White House staff members wore masks to listen to their boss speak at a press briefing, the first time new rules have been in place since two positive diagnoses at the White House

Accessorized: Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley was wearing sunglasses over his surgical mask

Accessorized: Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley was wearing sunglasses over his surgical mask 

Protect and serve: Uniformed and plains clothes members of the Secret Service were wearing masks as the president spoke

Protect and serve: Uniformed and plains clothes members of the Secret Service were wearing masks as the president spoke

Masked press corps: Reporters at the Rose Garden press briefing -including Francesca Chambers of McClatchy newspapers (center) - all covered up to come into the White House

Masked press corps: Reporters at the Rose Garden press briefing -including Francesca Chambers of McClatchy newspapers (center) – all covered up to come into the White House 

Trump said he personally had issued the order, and said he is ensuring he is not close to ‘anybody’ and observing social distancing.

Instead of answering directly, Trump spoke about the policy as of Monday. ‘Just about everybody I’ve seen today has worn a mask,’ Trump said.

‘I don’t think the system broke down at all. One person tested positive, surprisingly, because the previous day, [she] tested negative,’ Trump said.

‘It can happen. It’s the hidden enemy, remember that. It’s the hidden enemy. So, things happen.

Trump referenced three coronavirus task force members who tested negative after coming into contact with Katie Miller, an aide he identified publicly Friday.  

‘But the three tested negative. The one who tested positive will be fine, will be absolutely fine,’ Trump said.

‘I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,’ Trump said. 

All workers in the West Wing were told by email Monday that they only time they can take off their masks is when at their desks and as long as they are socially distanced at the time. They are also discouraged from inviting in guests, ABC News reported.

The move is a dramatic walk back of weeks of the White House ignoring its own CDC guidance that masks reduce the chance of infection spreading.

But the memo did not say if Donald Trump would lead by example, while Vice President Mike Pence arrived for work Monday without wearing a mask.

The White House was scrambling to deal with a coronavirus crisis in its own corridors after Donald Trump’s valet and Mike Pence’s press secretary both tested positive for the disease.

New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also wore a mask, although she did not at her press briefing Friday

New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also wore a mask, although she did not at her press briefing Friday

Members of the White House staff and the U.S. Secret Service stand along the West Wing colonnade prior to U.S. President Donald Trump holding the coronavirus

Members of the White House staff and the U.S. Secret Service stand along the West Wing colonnade prior to U.S. President Donald Trump holding the coronavirus

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden

Mike Pence was set to return to the White House Monday. On Friday, a top aide to the vice president tested positive for the coronavirus

Mike Pence was set to return to the White House Monday. On Friday, a top aide to the vice president tested positive for the coronavirus

WHO’S CAUGHT IN WHITE HOUSE VIRUS CLUSTER

Donald Trump’s personal valet, a Navy steward whose identity remains unknown

Tested positive after suffering symptoms and is now off work. Trump claimed to have had ‘very little contact’ with him

Katie Miller, Mike Pence’s press secretary and spokeswoman for the coronavirus task force 

Tested positive May 8, the day after going to a nursing home without wearing a mask. Now self-quarantining but her husband Stephen Miller is not. Unclear who she contracted virus from

Dr. Tony Fauci, member of the coronavirus task force, nation’s leading expert on infectious disease

Self-isolating after contact with Katie Miller. Says it will be ‘modified’; will give evidence to the Senate by video link

Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, head of the FDA, member of coronavirus task force

Self-isolating after contact with Katie Miller. Was tested and is negative

Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, member of the coronavirus task force

Self-isolating after contact with Katie Miller. Says he will come to White House if required

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force

Extensive contact with Katie Miller but says he is not self-isolating. Went to Iowa after she tested positive for meeting where others were asked to remove masks

Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator   

Some contact with Katie Miller but is not self-isolating 

General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Tested both positive and negative; did not attend Saturday meeting of the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Self-quarantining for a week after coming into contact with a family member who tested positive; did not attend Saturday meeting of the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Reynolds announced that she would be undergoing a ‘modified quarantine plan’ after learning she was in contact with Miller. She was notified this weekend that the aide was present when Reynolds visited the White House last week. 

Despite the potential that he was exposed to the virus, Pence went to his office in the Old Executive Office Building (OEB) Monday after speculation on Sunday that he would go into self-quarantine.

But he chaired a coronavirus task force conference call with governors from a room alone, while other officials stayed in the Situation Room, ABC News reported.

‘Many of you heard that we had a couple of staff members that tested positive,’ he told participants as he explained why he was by himself.  

His aide Katie Miller tested positive on Friday after displaying symptoms on Thursday, when she went with the vice president to a nursing home near Washington D.C., and neither wore masks.

Her contacts were traced Friday. As well as being Pence’s press secretary, she is spokeswoman for the coronavirus task force which he leads. 

That prompted Dr. Tony Fauci to go into ‘modified’ quarantine, along with the FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield. 

But Pence ‘has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House,’ spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. 

According to the new directive, the White House is now ‘requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering … Staff who sit in the West Wing are not required to wear a facial covering while at their desk if they are appropriately socially distanced from their colleagues.’  

Pence’s decision to come to work comes as the White House takes steps to continue to project an image of resolute action despite it now being the nation’s most high-profile center of infection – with Kevin Hassett, one of Trump’s economic advisers calling working there ‘scary’ and saying he’d be ‘safer at home than in the West Wing.’ 

The new policy comes just minutes before the president was to hold a news conference where some of his top advisors are sidelined and Pence was not expected to attend. And it comes a day before a Senate hearing titled: ‘COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.’

All four key witnesses are to testify remotely, as is Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions chair Lamar Alexander, who was exposed to someone who an aide who tested positive.  

President Trump had revealed Friday that Miller, who is married to his immigration adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller, had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Pence and his team learned about the test on Friday shortly before he was to fly to Iowa for an event – an event he undertook without a mask.

The list of impacted people grew on Monday, when Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that she would be undergoing a ‘modified quarantine plan’ after learning she was in contact with Miller, the Washington Post reported. She was notified this weekend that the aide was present when she visited Washington.

CNN reported Monday that it was still not known how Katie Miller had become infected.

It does not appear she had been in close contact with the White House Navy valet who tested positive last Wednesday.

He has not been named, but his contact with other West Wing staff appears to have been limited.

But the two cases did prompt changes in the White House Monday. 

The Secret Service agents charged with safeguarding the president will finally begin wearing protective masks – even as the president himself continues to shy from the practice. 

The agents are among many people who work in the White House complex who are preparing to undertake new precautions after two people who work there tested positive for the virus – as a senior official admitted it was ‘scary’ to go and work at the building.

White House aides – almost all of whom have declined to wear masks even as the White House and the Centers for Disease Control encouraged Americans to start using them – may now undertake new social distancing measures while at work, ABC News reported. 

Agents who are close to the president or who are near the Oval Office will don the masks, according to the report – which follows news that a valet who has been in close proximity to Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.  

A measure under consideration is to have White House aides stand six feet apart, a key CDC recommendation to prevent the spread of the virus – including during their meetings with the president. 

That requirement has been part of normal life for Americans for weeks, but had not been enforced at the White House.

However people scheduled to meet with Trump  – a self-described germophobe – will continue to be tested.

For weeks, outsiders who came to the White House to meet with Trump have been tested. 

Reporters who attend White House briefings were tested on one occasion, but now must undergo only temperature checks before participating and entering the White House complex. 

In recent days reporters at White House briefings have kept masks on, but staff including new press secretary Kayleigh McEnany have not.

However one of Donald Trump’s top economic advisers admitted Sunday that it’s ‘scary’ to think about going back to work, voicing his own concerns about working at the White House in the midst of the pandemic.

‘It is scary to go to work,’ Kevin Hassett told CBS News Sunday morning. ‘I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing. But, you know, it’s the time when people have to step up and serve their country.’

‘Do you wear a mask? Are you going to continue to show up for work at the White House?’ CBS News’ Margaret Brennan posed to Hassett as Trump continues to face criticisms for not wearing a mask in public. 

Even amid growing infection rates and deaths across the country, White House officials have avoided embracing mask protocols. Last Tuesday, when Trump flew to Arizona, aides including Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, and Dan Scavino walked closely off Marine One without wearing masks.

‘I’ve got a mask right here,’ Hassett said. ‘And the fact is that I practice aggressive social distancing. I’ll wear a mask when I feel it’s necessary.’

Hassett acknowledged that it is ‘risky’ to work in the West Wing because it is a ‘small, crowded place.’ 

The economic adviser’s admission of fear also comes as several states have begun to implement the easing of lockdown and stay-at-home restrictions.

At local levels, some states, counties and localities have decided to begin reopening by permitting non-essential businesses to operate and opening up areas that were shutdown to maintain social distancing guidelines – like beaches, golf courses and marinas.

Trump’s Democratic challenge Joe Biden turned the White House’s crisis into a political attacking, blasted the Trump administration for failing to line-up adequate testing for the coronavirus for the nation, but trying to make the West Wing safe.

‘It’s been more than two months since Trump claimed that ‘anybody that wants a test can get a test.’ Biden wrote in a new op-ed in the Washington Post.

‘The administration is fully aware that this is the right path, too — after all, the president and his staff are now reportedly receiving daily tests. 

‘They knew exactly how to make the Oval Office safe and operational, and they put in the work to do it. They just haven’t put in that same work for the rest of us.’

Without testing, he wrote, the nation cannot go ahead with the phased reopening taking place. 

‘If we’re going to have thriving workplaces, restaurants, stores and parks, we need widespread testing. Trump can’t seem to provide it — to say nothing of worker safety protocols, consistent health guidelines or clear federal leadership to coordinate a responsible reopening,’ he wrote.

Biden cited Friday unemployment figures, which give the nation the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, saying the task called for ‘urgent, steady, empathetic, unifying leadership.’

Yuma Regional Medical Center registered nurses Daena Zamora, left, and Rebecca Adame work with one of the participants during the YRMC COVID-19 "Testing Blitz" in the Yuma Civic Center parking lot, Saturday, May 9, 2020, in Yuma, Ariz.

Yuma Regional Medical Center registered nurses Daena Zamora, left, and Rebecca Adame work with one of the participants during the YRMC COVID-19 ‘Testing Blitz’ in the Yuma Civic Center parking lot, Saturday, May 9, 2020, in Yuma, Ariz.

Trump has repeatedly hailed testing in the U.S., saying at the end of April it was ‘much better than any other country in the world.’ 

Trump also tweeted: ‘The only reason the U.S. has reported one million cases of coronavirus is that our testing is sooo much better than any other country in the world.

‘Other countries are way behind us in testing, and therefore show far fewer cases,’ he claimed.

The U.S. has more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases, more than any country in the world. 

Public health experts have said the nation needs to ramp up testing as it reopens to identify people who have the infection and isolate them to keep them from spreading it.

The nation has been testing about 250,000 people per day, although experts at Harvard’s Global Health Institute have proposed more than 900,000 per day, amid a nationwide call to ramp up contact tracing to track down those who came in contact with infected people.  



Coronavirus: Trump avoids Pence to keep Pelosi from presidency


Vice President Mike Pence was spotted at the White House on Tuesday wearing a face mask amid concerns about a coronavirus cluster at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Pence made a ‘personal decision’ to stay away from President Donald Trump after a coronavirus outbreak on his staff, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday. 

‘The vice president has made the choice to keep his distance for a few days, and I would note that that’s his personal decision to make as to how many days he does it, that’s a decision for the vice president,’ she said at her press briefing.

Vice President Mike Pence was spotted arriving at the White House on Tuesday wearing a face mask

Vice President Mike Pence made a 'personal decision' to stay away from President Donald Trump, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Vice President Mike Pence made a ‘personal decision’ to stay away from President Donald Trump, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Trump and Pence are keeping their distance from one another in order to prevent a scenario where Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take charge after the vice president’s press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus.

The two men are ‘maintaining some distance for the immediate future on consultation from the White House medical unit,’ a senior administration official told DailyMail.com. 

Should the president and vice president die or become incapacitated, the speaker of the House becomes president, as outlined in the order of succession in the constitution. 

‘We must be very careful. Crazy Nancy would be a total disaster, and the USA will never be a Communist Country!,’ Trump tweeted on Tuesday, in response to a tweet that noted Pelosi is third in line should the president and Pence become incapacitated by the coronavirus. 

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are keeping their distance from one another after a Pence aide tested positive for coronavirus

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are keeping their distance from one another after a Pence aide tested positive for coronavirus

If either President Trump or Vice President Pence dies or is incapacitated, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take charge

If either President Trump or Vice President Pence dies or is incapacitated, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would take charge

President Trump and Vice President Pence were last together on Thursday

President Trump and Vice President Pence were last together on Thursday 

President Trump has previously brushed aside questions about whether he and Pence should maintain a distance in order to preserve the chain of command should one of them become infected with the coronavirus.

But that has changed after Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive for the disease last week. 

The change is already in effect. Pence was not at Trump’s press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, which was unusual given that, in the past, he was a regular attendee. The two were last seen together at the White House on Thursday. 

Trump noted at his press conference on Monday he hadn’t seen Pence since Miller was diagnosed.  

‘I have not seen him since then,’ the president said and he indicated some separate policy was going to go into effect. ‘We could talk on the phone.’ 

During a call with governors on Monday, Pence told them he was taking extra precautions and was participating on the call ‘in a separate room on my own’ during while Dr. Deborah Birx was ‘in a situation room with some staff,’ according to CNN, which obtained audio of the call.

Pence’s office is across the street from the West Wing in the Old Executive Office Building, making it easy to keep the two leaders separate. He was in that office on Monday and wore a face mask, ABC News reported.  

Monday saw the new safety protocols in effect at the White House as several aides – including senior adviser Jared Kushner and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany – wore masks for the first time in public at the president’s press conference in the Rose Garden.

McEnany was not wearing a face mask during her briefingTuesday despite new guidance recommending White House staffers wear one.

She said it was because she was a safe distance from the media and has tested negative for the coronavirus. She was seen wearing a face mask at the White House on Monday.

McEnany said she was an ‘appropriate distance away. I had a negative test today and a negative test yesterday and I’m in an okay place.’

Pelosi wears a mask on Capitol Hill and has heeded to social distancing guidelines.  

White House staff were told Monday they must wear a mask at all times when they enter or move around the building, after a coronavirus cluster started at the complex. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also wore a mask at the press conference, as did deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley.  

‘Just about everybody has a face mask on,’ President Trump observed at the news conference, where the president used his own podium that he did not have to share with other officials who spoke. Reporters asked him questions speaking through masks of their own, and bending over so their voices could get picked up by shared microphones they did not touch. 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (L) wears a face mask during a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (L) wears a face mask during a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC

White House senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner wears a protective face mask in the Rose Garden as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a coronavirus disease

White House senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner wears a protective face mask in the Rose Garden as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a coronavirus disease

No mask: President Donald Trump defended his administration's record on testing as he unveiled equipment at the White House - but unlike his staff he did not wear a mask

No mask: President Donald Trump defended his administration’s record on testing as he unveiled equipment at the White House – but unlike his staff he did not wear a mask

Masked officials: White House press secretary Kayleih McEnany (left) as well as technical support staff were all wearing masks for the first time

Masked officials: White House press secretary Kayleih McEnany (left) as well as technical support staff were all wearing masks for the first time

Jared masked: The president's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner followed the new protocol brought in after the president's valet and Mike Pence's press secretary tested positive for coronavirus

Jared masked: The president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner followed the new protocol brought in after the president’s valet and Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for coronavirus

Obeying the rules: Jared Kushner wore a mask throughout the press briefing

Obeying the rules: Jared Kushner wore a mask throughout the press briefing 

Distanced audience: The White House put newly-masked officials in front of a rple line and reporters behind for the press conference

Distanced audience: The White House put newly-masked officials in front of a rple line and reporters behind for the press conference 

Masks are the new uniform: White House staffers finally caught up with other workplaces Monday and lined up at a Rose Garden press conference to cover up - although not all stood six feet apart

Masks are the new uniform: White House staffers finally caught up with other workplaces Monday and lined up at a Rose Garden press conference to cover up – although not all stood six feet apart

Protective detail: Secret Service agents were also spotted in masks for the first time during the president's press conference

Protective detail: Secret Service agents were also spotted in masks for the first time during the president’s press conference

Rose Garden cover-up: White House staff members wore masks to listen to their boss speak at a press briefing, the first time new rules have been in place since two positive diagnoses at the White House

Rose Garden cover-up: White House staff members wore masks to listen to their boss speak at a press briefing, the first time new rules have been in place since two positive diagnoses at the White House

Accessorized: Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley was wearing sunglasses over his surgical mask

Accessorized: Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley was wearing sunglasses over his surgical mask 

Protect and serve: Uniformed and plains clothes members of the Secret Service were wearing masks as the president spoke

Protect and serve: Uniformed and plains clothes members of the Secret Service were wearing masks as the president spoke

Masked press corps: Reporters at the Rose Garden press briefing -including Francesca Chambers of McClatchy newspapers (center) - all covered up to come into the White House

Masked press corps: Reporters at the Rose Garden press briefing -including Francesca Chambers of McClatchy newspapers (center) – all covered up to come into the White House 

Trump said he personally had issued the order, and said he is ensuring he is not close to ‘anybody’ and observing social distancing.

Instead of answering directly, Trump spoke about the policy as of Monday. ‘Just about everybody I’ve seen today has worn a mask,’ Trump said.

‘I don’t think the system broke down at all. One person tested positive, surprisingly, because the previous day, [she] tested negative,’ Trump said.

‘It can happen. It’s the hidden enemy, remember that. It’s the hidden enemy. So, things happen.

Trump referenced three coronavirus task force members who tested negative after coming into contact with Katie Miller, an aide he identified publicly Friday.  

‘But the three tested negative. The one who tested positive will be fine, will be absolutely fine,’ Trump said.

‘I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,’ Trump said. 

All workers in the West Wing were told by email Monday that they only time they can take off their masks is when at their desks and as long as they are socially distanced at the time. They are also discouraged from inviting in guests, ABC News reported.

The move is a dramatic walk back of weeks of the White House ignoring its own CDC guidance that masks reduce the chance of infection spreading.

But the memo did not say if Donald Trump would lead by example, while Vice President Mike Pence arrived for work Monday without wearing a mask.

The White House was scrambling to deal with a coronavirus crisis in its own corridors after Donald Trump’s valet and Mike Pence’s press secretary both tested positive for the disease.

New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also wore a mask, although she did not at her press briefing Friday

New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also wore a mask, although she did not at her press briefing Friday

Members of the White House staff and the U.S. Secret Service stand along the West Wing colonnade prior to U.S. President Donald Trump holding the coronavirus

Members of the White House staff and the U.S. Secret Service stand along the West Wing colonnade prior to U.S. President Donald Trump holding the coronavirus

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar and others wear face masks while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden

Mike Pence was set to return to the White House Monday. On Friday, a top aide to the vice president tested positive for the coronavirus

Mike Pence was set to return to the White House Monday. On Friday, a top aide to the vice president tested positive for the coronavirus

WHO’S CAUGHT IN WHITE HOUSE VIRUS CLUSTER

Donald Trump’s personal valet, a Navy steward whose identity remains unknown

Tested positive after suffering symptoms and is now off work. Trump claimed to have had ‘very little contact’ with him

Katie Miller, Mike Pence’s press secretary and spokeswoman for the coronavirus task force 

Tested positive May 8, the day after going to a nursing home without wearing a mask. Now self-quarantining but her husband Stephen Miller is not. Unclear who she contracted virus from

Dr. Tony Fauci, member of the coronavirus task force, nation’s leading expert on infectious disease

Self-isolating after contact with Katie Miller. Says it will be ‘modified’; will give evidence to the Senate by video link

Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, head of the FDA, member of coronavirus task force

Self-isolating after contact with Katie Miller. Was tested and is negative

Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, member of the coronavirus task force

Self-isolating after contact with Katie Miller. Says he will come to White House if required

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force

Extensive contact with Katie Miller but says he is not self-isolating. Went to Iowa after she tested positive for meeting where others were asked to remove masks

Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator   

Some contact with Katie Miller but is not self-isolating 

General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Tested both positive and negative; did not attend Saturday meeting of the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Self-quarantining for a week after coming into contact with a family member who tested positive; did not attend Saturday meeting of the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Reynolds announced that she would be undergoing a ‘modified quarantine plan’ after learning she was in contact with Miller. She was notified this weekend that the aide was present when Reynolds visited the White House last week. 

Despite the potential that he was exposed to the virus, Pence went to his office in the Old Executive Office Building (OEB) Monday after speculation on Sunday that he would go into self-quarantine.

But he chaired a coronavirus task force conference call with governors from a room alone, while other officials stayed in the Situation Room, ABC News reported.

‘Many of you heard that we had a couple of staff members that tested positive,’ he told participants as he explained why he was by himself.  

His aide Katie Miller tested positive on Friday after displaying symptoms on Thursday, when she went with the vice president to a nursing home near Washington D.C., and neither wore masks.

Her contacts were traced Friday. As well as being Pence’s press secretary, she is spokeswoman for the coronavirus task force which he leads. 

That prompted Dr. Tony Fauci to go into ‘modified’ quarantine, along with the FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield. 

But Pence ‘has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House,’ spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. 

According to the new directive, the White House is now ‘requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering … Staff who sit in the West Wing are not required to wear a facial covering while at their desk if they are appropriately socially distanced from their colleagues.’  

Pence’s decision to come to work comes as the White House takes steps to continue to project an image of resolute action despite it now being the nation’s most high-profile center of infection – with Kevin Hassett, one of Trump’s economic advisers calling working there ‘scary’ and saying he’d be ‘safer at home than in the West Wing.’ 

The new policy comes just minutes before the president was to hold a news conference where some of his top advisors are sidelined and Pence was not expected to attend. And it comes a day before a Senate hearing titled: ‘COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.’

All four key witnesses are to testify remotely, as is Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions chair Lamar Alexander, who was exposed to someone who an aide who tested positive.  

President Trump had revealed Friday that Miller, who is married to his immigration adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller, had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Pence and his team learned about the test on Friday shortly before he was to fly to Iowa for an event – an event he undertook without a mask.

The list of impacted people grew on Monday, when Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that she would be undergoing a ‘modified quarantine plan’ after learning she was in contact with Miller, the Washington Post reported. She was notified this weekend that the aide was present when she visited Washington.

CNN reported Monday that it was still not known how Katie Miller had become infected.

It does not appear she had been in close contact with the White House Navy valet who tested positive last Wednesday.

He has not been named, but his contact with other West Wing staff appears to have been limited.

But the two cases did prompt changes in the White House Monday. 

The Secret Service agents charged with safeguarding the president will finally begin wearing protective masks – even as the president himself continues to shy from the practice. 

The agents are among many people who work in the White House complex who are preparing to undertake new precautions after two people who work there tested positive for the virus – as a senior official admitted it was ‘scary’ to go and work at the building.

White House aides – almost all of whom have declined to wear masks even as the White House and the Centers for Disease Control encouraged Americans to start using them – may now undertake new social distancing measures while at work, ABC News reported. 

Agents who are close to the president or who are near the Oval Office will don the masks, according to the report – which follows news that a valet who has been in close proximity to Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.  

A measure under consideration is to have White House aides stand six feet apart, a key CDC recommendation to prevent the spread of the virus – including during their meetings with the president. 

That requirement has been part of normal life for Americans for weeks, but had not been enforced at the White House.

However people scheduled to meet with Trump  – a self-described germophobe – will continue to be tested.

For weeks, outsiders who came to the White House to meet with Trump have been tested. 

Reporters who attend White House briefings were tested on one occasion, but now must undergo only temperature checks before participating and entering the White House complex. 

In recent days reporters at White House briefings have kept masks on, but staff including new press secretary Kayleigh McEnany have not.

However one of Donald Trump’s top economic advisers admitted Sunday that it’s ‘scary’ to think about going back to work, voicing his own concerns about working at the White House in the midst of the pandemic.

‘It is scary to go to work,’ Kevin Hassett told CBS News Sunday morning. ‘I think that I’d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing. But, you know, it’s the time when people have to step up and serve their country.’

‘Do you wear a mask? Are you going to continue to show up for work at the White House?’ CBS News’ Margaret Brennan posed to Hassett as Trump continues to face criticisms for not wearing a mask in public. 

Even amid growing infection rates and deaths across the country, White House officials have avoided embracing mask protocols. Last Tuesday, when Trump flew to Arizona, aides including Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, and Dan Scavino walked closely off Marine One without wearing masks.

‘I’ve got a mask right here,’ Hassett said. ‘And the fact is that I practice aggressive social distancing. I’ll wear a mask when I feel it’s necessary.’

Hassett acknowledged that it is ‘risky’ to work in the West Wing because it is a ‘small, crowded place.’ 

The economic adviser’s admission of fear also comes as several states have begun to implement the easing of lockdown and stay-at-home restrictions.

At local levels, some states, counties and localities have decided to begin reopening by permitting non-essential businesses to operate and opening up areas that were shutdown to maintain social distancing guidelines – like beaches, golf courses and marinas.

Trump’s Democratic challenge Joe Biden turned the White House’s crisis into a political attacking, blasted the Trump administration for failing to line-up adequate testing for the coronavirus for the nation, but trying to make the West Wing safe.

‘It’s been more than two months since Trump claimed that ‘anybody that wants a test can get a test.’ Biden wrote in a new op-ed in the Washington Post.

‘The administration is fully aware that this is the right path, too — after all, the president and his staff are now reportedly receiving daily tests. 

‘They knew exactly how to make the Oval Office safe and operational, and they put in the work to do it. They just haven’t put in that same work for the rest of us.’

Without testing, he wrote, the nation cannot go ahead with the phased reopening taking place. 

‘If we’re going to have thriving workplaces, restaurants, stores and parks, we need widespread testing. Trump can’t seem to provide it — to say nothing of worker safety protocols, consistent health guidelines or clear federal leadership to coordinate a responsible reopening,’ he wrote.

Biden cited Friday unemployment figures, which give the nation the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, saying the task called for ‘urgent, steady, empathetic, unifying leadership.’

Yuma Regional Medical Center registered nurses Daena Zamora, left, and Rebecca Adame work with one of the participants during the YRMC COVID-19 "Testing Blitz" in the Yuma Civic Center parking lot, Saturday, May 9, 2020, in Yuma, Ariz.

Yuma Regional Medical Center registered nurses Daena Zamora, left, and Rebecca Adame work with one of the participants during the YRMC COVID-19 ‘Testing Blitz’ in the Yuma Civic Center parking lot, Saturday, May 9, 2020, in Yuma, Ariz.

Trump has repeatedly hailed testing in the U.S., saying at the end of April it was ‘much better than any other country in the world.’ 

Trump also tweeted: ‘The only reason the U.S. has reported one million cases of coronavirus is that our testing is sooo much better than any other country in the world.

‘Other countries are way behind us in testing, and therefore show far fewer cases,’ he claimed.

The U.S. has more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases, more than any country in the world. 

Public health experts have said the nation needs to ramp up testing as it reopens to identify people who have the infection and isolate them to keep them from spreading it.

The nation has been testing about 250,000 people per day, although experts at Harvard’s Global Health Institute have proposed more than 900,000 per day, amid a nationwide call to ramp up contact tracing to track down those who came in contact with infected people.