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It’s the first time a private company has launched astronauts into orbit. The Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday.
SpaceX launches two astronauts to orbit, igniting new spaceflight era.
The United States opened a new era of human space travel on Saturday as a private company for the first time launched astronauts into orbit, nearly a decade after the government retired the storied space shuttle program in the aftermath of national tragedy.
Two American astronauts lifted off at 3:22 p.m. from a familiar setting, the same Florida launchpad that once served Apollo missions and the space shuttles. But the rocket and capsule that lofted them out of the atmosphere were a new sight for many — built and operated not by NASA but SpaceX, the company founded by the billionaire Elon Musk to pursue his dream of sending colonists to Mars.
Crowds of spectators including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence watched and cheered as the countdown ticked to zero, and the engines of a Falcon 9 rocket roared to life.
Rising slowly at first, the rocket then shot like a sleek, silvery javelin into cloudy, humid skies, three days after Florida’s weather had precluded an earlier launch attempt.
It was a moment of triumph and perhaps nostalgia for the country, a welcome reminder of America’s global pre-eminence in science, technological innovation and private enterprise at a time its prospects and ambitions have been clouded by the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty and political strife. Millions around the world watched the launch online and on television, many from self-imposed quarantine in their homes.
Mr Trump, who watched from a rooftop at the space centre along with Mr Mike Pence and a bevvy of administration officials and Republican politicians, called it “an inspiration for our country” and a “beautiful sight” after the ship lifted off. “I’m so proud of the people at NASA, all the people that worked together, public and private,” he told reporters.
The Falcon 9 carried a Crew Dragon capsule, which was scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday morning.
Aboard are two veterans of the astronaut’s corps, Robert L. Behnken and Douglas O. Hurley. Each is married to another astronaut — Mr Behnken to Megan McArthur and Mr Hurley to Karen Nyberg. NASA selected the two men along with a group of their colleagues to be the first customers of space capsules built by private companies.
It was the first launch of NASA astronauts from the United States since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011. In the years since NASA has paid Russia’s space program to transport its astronauts to the space station. And with this success, NASA, to its own delight, has begun ceding this task to SpaceX and other companies, and it opens new possibilities for entrepreneurs looking to make money off the planet.
As a bonus for the good start to the mission, the booster stage successfully landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic, now a routine feat for SpaceX.
Source: NY Times
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