SpaceX has officially launched two NASA astronauts into space in a historic mission that breaks new ground for the space race. The Falcon 9 rocket carried astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from Cape Canaveral into orbit in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. Minutes after launch, the rocket detached and landed safely on a drone ship while the capsule continued on its incredible journey to the International Space Station.
Moments before liftoff, Hurley reportedly said “SpaceX we’re go for launch. Let’s light this candle,” which is a paraphrased reference to the famous 1961 quote uttered by Alan Shepard, the first American launched into space. The launch marked the first time that humans have been shot into space from US soil since the Space Shuttle Programme ended in 2011. It was also the first time that humans have been sent into space by a private company, joining the US, Russian and Chinese space agencies as the only organisations to do so.
“It’s incredible, the power, the technology,” US President Donald Trump said according to Independent. The head of state was at Cape Canaveral for the launch, remarking the event “was a beautiful sight to see.” But the incredible feat of aeronautical ingenuity almost didn’t happen.
The original attempt to launch was aborted on Wednesday with less than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock. Poor weather had halted the initial plans, forcing a postponement. Even worse, less than 15 hours before today’s scheduled launch, a SpaceX rocket exploded into a ball of fire after a test. The Starship heavy-lift rocket was being tested in South Texas, however, a dramatic turn of events led to a fiery explosion that completely engulfed the rocket.
Still, NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX weren’t deterred, pushing on with their launch, which has become a tremendous success. The journey to the International Space Station is set to take 19 hours with Hurley and Behnken expected to remain at the station for several weeks, assisting a short-handed crew aboard the orbital laboratory.
The whole thing was live-streamed on YouTube, with NASA providing a wealth of detailed coverage over the event. You can check out the whole 6-hour video below, with the launch kicking off at around the 4hr mark.