SpaceX historic launch to space station
SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station today, becoming the first company to send humans to orbit on a commercial spaceship.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 p.m. ET (12:22 p.m. PT) marked a feat that Americans hadn’t been able to do since NASA retired the space shuttles in 2011: sending astronauts into orbit from a U.S. launch pad rather than relying on the Russians.
“It is absolutely our honor to be part of this huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business,” NASA astronaut Doug Hurley told SpaceX Mission Control just before liftoff.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine got emotional as he reflected on the achievement. “It’s been nine years since we’ve launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and now it’s done,” he said on NASA TV. “We have done it. It’s been way too long.”
No technical issues arose during today’s countdown, but the weather made it a nail-biter, just as it did during Wednesday’s initial launch attempt.
On that day, dark clouds and the accompanying risk of lightning forced a postponement. This morning, the weather forecast was 50-50, but the skies cleared enough for Hurley and his crewmate, Bob Behnken, to ride SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule eastward into orbit.
Ships were strategically placed in the Atlantic Ocean just in case an emergency abort and splashdown was required. (It wasn’t required.) Minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s reusable first-stage booster successfully touched down on SpaceX’s drone ship, christened Of Course I Still Love You.