Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent NASA astronauts into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, May 30, marking for the first time in history a private company has succeeded in sending humans into space. The “Demo-2” launch also marks the first time in nearly a decade that American astronauts travel to space.
“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 International Space Station, our national lab orbiting Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.
The commercially built and operated spacecraft, known as the SpaceX Crew Dragon, carried astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley into space to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, where they will be capable of staying for at least 210 days (as per NASA requirements).
The Dragon’s minimal interior and exterior design sports fully automated touchscreens and clean lines rather than dated switches and knobs and can seat up to four passengers -- although only the centre two seats have been occupied for the preliminary test flight.
“This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX in a statement. “It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”
Behnken and Hurley have successfully been met by members of the Expedition 63 crew, including NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who are also currently aboard the International Space Station.
Three of the astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station will go live with a NASA Television crew from orbit at 11:15 p.m. Manila time on NASA TV to continue live coverage surrounding the Crew Dragon and additional research with the space station crew.