SpaceX launches NASA astronauts into space

For the first time in nearly a decade, NASA launched astronauts into space from U.S. territory.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft carries two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who are expected to reach the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday.

Ever since NASA’s Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. The U.S. has used Russia’s Soyuz rockets to take astronauts into space. Sadly, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no big crowds to watch the launch, both on Wednesday and Saturday.

With Saturday’s launch, SpaceX is on its way to becoming the first private company to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS. The success of NASA’s Demo-2 brings the U.S. closer to eventually bringing astronauts back to the Moon, and then possibly on to Mars.

Just before Saturday’s rescheduled launch, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised Musk. “[He’s] brought vision and inspiration,” he said Friday at a NASA news conference. “He’s brilliant, he’s capable.”

Wednesday’s launch was only 16 minutes from takeoff. But unfavorable weather conditions kept the rocket and spacecraft from blasting the two astronauts to the ISS. Rocket fuel had been loaded and the astronauts were settled in the hatch with their SpaceX spacesuits.

The weather cooperated for Saturday’s launch, despite NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noting earlier in the day that there remained a “50% chance of cancellation” due to weather. The launch went off without a hitch. The reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that carried the Crew Dragon capsule into orbit safely detached from the capsule. Also returned to Earth’s atmosphere, where it landed