Manned SpaceX capsule docks at Int'l Space Station

Pablo Tucker
June 1, 2020

Speaking during a welcome-aboard ceremony on the station, Hurley said "it's great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business, and we're just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex". "Let's light this candle", paraphrasing the famous comment uttered on the launch pad in 1961 by Alan Shepard, the first American flown into space. The crowds at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday were significantly smaller this time around as a result of social distancing restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Astronauts were last launched into space from the 2011, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, retired its space shuttle fleet, forcing the rely on partnerships with Russia's space agency to carry US astronauts to the orbiting ISS, 402 kilometers above earth. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence were present to witness the historic launch. "That was a lovely sight to see".

On Wednesday the Falcon 9's first launch attempt was scrubbed with fewer than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock amid electrical storms and a tornado warning.

Now, of course no one's arguing that Saturday's launch wasn't significant.

The mission was the first time NASA astronauts had launched from United States soil since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, and it marked the first time a private company had flown astronauts to orbit. Even so, getting the two astronauts safely to orbit and then the space station had everyone breathing huge sighs of relief.

The achievement, years in the making, is expected to drive down launch costs so more people might be able to afford a ticket to space in the coming years.

The mission marks the first time a private company has put humans into space.

NASA last sent astronauts into space on a brand new vehicle 40 years ago at the start of the space shuttle program.

Musk, the South African-born high-tech entrepreneur who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, is also chief executive of electric carmaker and battery manufacturer Tesla Inc.

The California-based SpaceX is owned by its founder, billionaire Elon Musk.

Next, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will prepare to open up the hatch and enter the station. Initially, Boeing, the industry stalwart that had been NASA's partner for generations, was considered the favorite.

Trump also hailed the launch as a major advance toward the goal of eventually sending humans to Mars. "Make her life easy".

The two Americans, both spaceflight veterans, will spend up to four months orbiting Earth while engineers from SpaceX analyze every aspect of their spaceship's performance.

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