For the first time in history, two American astronauts successfully boarded the international space station from a SpaceX capsule. This is the first time humans have travelled to orbit on a commercially developed craft thus, forging a new era for billionaire Elon Musk and NASA. The Dragon craft carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived at the orbiting lab at 10:16 a.m. Eastern time Sunday. This was about 19 hours after lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They entered the international space station at 1:22 p.m. after completing a series of arrival checklists.
“We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX,” Hurley said after the docking. “Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”
New SpaceX Milestone
This flight is the first time American astronauts have flown from home soil since the space shuttle program ended back in 2011. Moreover, Space Exploration Technologies Corp achieved the milestone 18 years after the program was founded by Musk. The ultimate goal of the mission is to populate other planets in the future. Three manned-vehicle programs are also in works with the aim for a return to the moon.
“Welcome to Bob and Doug,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the astronauts from Mission Control in Houston shortly after the two men entered the station. “The whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and to inspire the world,” he said.
This rocket launch is the highest-profile U.S. launch in decades and captured interest all around the globe. Over 10 million people tuned in to watch it live on Saturday. With everything else going on like the Covid-19 pandemic, growing U.S. protests against police violence and surging unemployment, people were clamoring for good news.
“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months to kind of inspire, especially the young people in the United States, to reach for these lofty goals and work hard and look at what you can accomplish,” Hurley said from the space station.
The president of the United States, Donald Trump, along with the Vice president Mike Pence also gathers with Musk to watch the spectacle. Trump also spoke to Hurley and Bob prior to the launch and also referred to Musk as one of the “great brains” the country has produced. The building shook as the rocket rumbled the orbit and within seconds, Elton John’s “Rocket Man” began to play over the speakers.
“They have a long way to go but that’s a very dangerous part of it there,” Trump said. “I’m so proud of the people, of NASA, public and private. When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible. When you hear that sound — the roar — you can imagine how dangerous it is.”
The launch and the initial phases of the journey proceeded as planned. The main rocket booster flew back to Earth and stuck a perfect landing on a drone ship. This was once-remarkable feat that has now become routine for SpaceX. The two astronauts joined the Expedition of 63 crew members already in residence on the space station. Their voyage, known as Demo-2, is the final major test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system before the National Aeronautics and Space Administration certifies it to fly working missions to the space station. Boeing Co. is also preparing to carry people to the orbiting lab as part of the same Commercial Crew program at NASA.