NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have successfully launched into space aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. The launch took place at 3:22 p.m. from Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday, May 30, 3030. This was the same pad on which Apollo astronauts launched to the lunar surface a half-century ago.

The historic launch was witnessed by President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and Second Lady Karen Pence from the rooftop of the Operational Building at NASA. This would be the second time the president and vice-president would be at Cape Canaveral within four days to witness the launch which should have occurred on Wednesday but was called off due to unfavorable weather.

The two American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley rode on a special Tesla SUV to the launch facility. The success of the historic launch marked the first time astronauts would launch into space from American soil in 10 years – the last time being 2011 when NASA retired its space shuttle. The flight to the International Space Station (ISS) will last 19 hours and the spacecraft is expected to dock at the ISS around 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 31, 2020.

“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said before igniting the engines of the rocket. Those were the exact words used by Alan Shepard when American’s first went into space in 1961. Both Hurley and Behnken will stay up to four months at the ISS before returning again to Earth. Hurley is a 53-year-old retired Marine and Behnken is a 49-year-old Air Force colonel. Both had been to the ISS on two occasions before.

Contrary to NASA’s uniforms for shooting into space, both astronauts wore SpaceX’s angular white uniforms with black trims.

SpaceX is the first private company to shoot astronauts to space in the United States. Since NASA retired its space shuttle nine years ago, American astronauts have launched to space using Russian spacecraft from launch-pads in Kazakhstan. To cut down the financial costs of the launches, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing for a joint $7 billion to design and construct next-generation spacecraft that could take people to the ISS, and later to the Moon by 2023 and Mars by 2030.

Despite NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s announcements that people should stay away from the vicinity of the launch because of the coronavirus situation in the country, a crowd of almost three thousand still gathered to watch the liftoff and NASA estimated that more than three million people watched it online.

Source: pbs.org