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Trump will return to Florida on Saturday for rescheduled SpaceX launch after lightning delay

The launch would have been the first time a commercially built vehicle carried NASA astronauts into orbit and first time since 2011 that astronauts lifted off from American soil.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump departs the White House for Baltimore, Md. on May 25, 2020.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — It was suppose to be a moment for President Donald Trump to tout the nation's ingenuity and promote his narrative of an American come back story. Instead, it was a trip cut short after lightning delayed the launch of the first Americans into space in nearly a decade.

Trump scrapped a speech he had planned to give at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday and headed back to Washington shortly after the launch was called off, but tweeted from Air Force One that he would be back on Saturday for the reschedule launch.

White House aides had scrambled to arrange the Wednesday event that was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump, and Trump's children Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were schedule to travel on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket owned by tech billionaire Elon Musk. Wednesday would have been the first time NASA sent an astronauts into orbit aboard a spacecraft built by a private company.

Trump congratulated Musk during a tour of the facilities Wednesday and called him “a friend of mine for a long time."

Charles Bolden, a former NASA administrator and astronaut, said in an interview with MSNBC Wednesday morning that he did not think the coronavirus pandemic would affect the ability to successfully launch the rocket, but that he worried it could be putting some workers involved with the event at risk of infection.

"I'm concerned about the safety of the people involved, but I am not concerned that it will impact the launch," Bolden said.

Trump's visit Wednesday was his fourth trip to a battleground state in as many weeks. Trump, who has been eager to get back on the campaign trail, has visited factories producing medical equipment used to fight the coronavirus in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Trump, who changed his residency from New York to Florida last year, narrowly won the state in 2016 by roughly 1 percentage point. Florida has 29 electoral college votes, more than any other battleground state, and will be critical to the president's re-election chances.

The RealClear Politics polling average shows former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, leading Trump in Florida by more than 3 percentage points.