SpaceX successfully launches NASA astronauts on historic mission

NASA and SpaceX successfully launched astronauts into space following a delay on Saturday May 30, 2020 after the initial launch was postponed due to bad weather.

The historic mission marks the first time humans have been sent into space from U.S. soil in almost a decade and is the beginning of a new era in of space travel as NASA turns to a private company to oversee the launch.

On Wednesday May 27, 2020, mere minutes before the scheduled lift-off, SpaceX’s launch director was notified by staff that the clouds and winds were too heavy, resulting in the launch being moved to Saturday. While it was estimated that if the time would be moved ten minutes later the weather conditions would be suitable for the mission to proceed, this would not be possible as the spacecraft needed to leave at a precise time to meet up with the International Space Station. (ISS)

Such conditions are known to trigger lightning which places the rocket and crew in grave danger, hence the last moment decision to postpone.

The new launch date offered favourable conditions and at exactly 3:22p.m. EDT the commercial Dragon spacecraft set off from Kennedy Space Center for the ISS, carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken.

The purpose of the mission called “NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2” is to test the capsules capabilities along with SpaceX’s commercial spaceflight program. This is the first manned mission for the company and the second trial of the Crew Dragon.

Both President Trump and Vice President Pence witnessed the historic moment, looking on from the balcony of Operations Support Building II at the Kennedy Space Centre.

The crew spacecraft is scheduled to dock on the ISS at 10:29 a.m. on Sunday where the two astronauts will join the three crew already onboard. Additional tests of the Crew Dragon are also scheduled to take place during this time.

The chief engineer at SpaceX, Elon Musk, spoke after the successful launch saying, “This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX.”…“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.”

Jim Bridenstine, Administrator at NASA speaks of the significance of the launch saying, “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.”

 “I thank and congratulate Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX and NASA teams for this significant achievement for the United States. The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence and is an important step on our path to expand human exploration to the Moon and Mars.”

Hurley and Behnken were first chosen by NASA back in 2000 to join the agency’s astronaut program and were then selected to be a part of SpaceX’s commercial spaceflight program. Both men have served as test pilots in the military.

SpaceX has been working with NASA to deliver payloads to the ISS for some time now using the Dragon capsule, the Crew Dragon capsule is an upgraded version on this vehicle. It has been speculated that SpaceX may sell flight into space to other space exploration agencies in the near future.