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Space history was made today, as astronauts flew from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011. At the same time, SpaceX became the first commercial company – ever – to send humans into space.
Today at 3:22 PM EDT, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a 19-hour voyage to the International Space Station.
This is the first time since the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011 that astronauts have launched to space from U.S. soil; since that final Atlantis mission, the U.S. has relied upon Russia launch vehicles and Soyuz space capsules to get U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
This is a major milestone as well in NASA’s ongoing initiative to use commercial companies like SpaceX in space exploration; the Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 launch vehicle were produced by SpaceX, who provided the launch to the space station on contract to NASA.
The first Crew Dragon launch attempt on Wednesday, May 27 was cancelled due to very mixed weather in Florida. While weather conditions were also iffy earlier on Saturday, conditions were stable enough by the afternoon to proceed with the launch.
Both of Crew Dragon’s astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, joined NASA’s astronaut team in 2000 and are veterans of the Space Shuttle program; Hurley, in fact, captained that final flight of the shuttle Atlantis in 2011. The Crew Dragon Demo-2 is on their way to a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday, May 31, circa 10:30 AM EDT.
Once at the International Space Station, Hurley, Behnken and the Crew Dragon capsule will remain there for a currently undetermined amount of time, ranging from 30 to 119 days.
Congratulations on this historic moment, NASA and SpaceX!
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