In a landmark event, private American space exploration and transportation company SpaceX made history on 30th May 2020 when it became the first private company ever to launch astronauts for NASA into space. This also marked the first time since 2011, when the space shuttle program was concluded, that NASA astronauts were launched into space from American soil.
Two NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Crew Dragon spacecraft built by SpaceX, founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. Two of the most experienced astronauts of NASA who have both been to space twice, they were blasted off into space at a speed of 17,000 mph, which is around 22 times the speed of sound, with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket for lift off.
Behnken is the joint operations commander for this SpaceX Demo-2 mission, in charge of activities such as docking and undocking, while Hurley is the space commander responsible for launch, landing, and recovery.
The liftoff occurred at 3:22 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And the astronauts would reach the ISS after a 19-hour journey.
This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight and its first with astronauts aboard. The first Crew Dragon mission launched in March 2019 to the ISS was called Demo-1. It did not have any astronauts on board; rather, it had only a test dummy on board called Ripley.
This mission, which marks a new era in in commercial space travel, was originally planned for 27th May 2020 but was postponed due to bad weather conditions.
President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence, and Second Lady Karen Pence were present at the launch.
“I’m so proud of the people, of NASA, public and private. When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible. When you hear that sound — the roar — you can imagine how dangerous it is,” Trump said post the launch.
Elon Musk, also the founder of Tesla, was understandably overwhelmed with emotion after the successful launch.
“I’m really quite overcome with emotion on this day, so it’s kind of hard to talk, frankly,” Musk said in a post-launch press conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “It’s been 18 years working towards this goal, so it’s hard to believe that it’s happened.”
“Today a new era in human spaceflight begins as we once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on their way to the ISS, our national lab orbiting Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
This launch is certainly a landmark in commercial space transport because if all goes well, then SpaceX could be used to launch other astronauts to space by NASA.1
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