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SpaceX launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into orbit, successfully beginning the company’s first crewed mission. The event also represents the first time NASA has launched its own astronauts since the end of the space shuttle program nearly a decade ago.
On Saturday afternoon, SpaceX launched its first human crew to space for NASA on the company’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft. Elon Musk’s private space company finally managed to launch NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into orbit, successfully beginning SpaceX’s first crewed mission. We said finally because the first attempt on Wednesday was unsuccessful due to the bad weather.
The company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 p.m. ET.
Outside the limits of the achievement for SpaceX, this event represents the first time in ten years that NASA managed to launch its own astronauts in space. The last time something like this happened was, as said, a decade ago when it ended its space shuttle program.
NASA and SpaceX: Making Humanity a Multi-Planetary Species
Known as Demo-2, the launch is kind of a show-off of the culmination of SpaceX’s work until now. Musk created the company back in 2002 and has since then announced its unofficial philosophy to be “making humanity a multi-planetary species.” To this day, SpaceX has launched numerous satellites and spacecraft but, before Saturday, it had never put a human in space.
Just after 3:22 p.m. ET, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying Crew Dragon and the astronauts lifted off from the launchpad. Approximately 12 minutes later, Crew Dragon reached orbit successfully.
The astronauts should reach the International Space Station on Sunday morning and the plan is for them to spend a few months onboard the space station before getting back.
In addition to the launch, SpaceX managed to successfully land the Falcon 9 rocket booster. What are we talking about here is a huge lower portion of the rocket, which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed on the company’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX has landed its Falcon 9 rocket boosters 45 times.
Musk was there to observe and monitor the launch in person, together with both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, said before the launch:
“This just the beginning; it’s only going to get better.”
We’re at the Dawn of a New Age
But why this seem to be such a great deal for the States if it’s known that NASA astronauts are regularly flying to International Space Station?
Because, ever since the space shuttle retired about nine years ago, the U.S. has paid Russia upwards of $80 million per head to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. However, NASA gave SpaceX and Boeing contracts worth $3.1 billion and $4.8 billion, in order to construct new spacecraft under a program called Commercial Crew.
According to NASA, it intends to fly its astronauts regularly to the space station and SpaceX is expected to be paid around $55 million per astronaut to do so. SpaceX intends to use Crew Dragon spacecraft for other missions as well, those include space tourism.
NASA already broadcasts 24 hours of nonstop live coverage of SpaceX Demo-2.