Takeoff took place shortly after 3:20 pm ET from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Astronauts Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, will spend approximately 19 hours aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule while moving slowly towards the International Space Station.
The spaceship is expected to dock with the space station around 10:29 ET on Sunday May 31.
The United States has not launched its astronauts into space since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. Since then, NASA astronauts have had to travel to Russia and train on the country’s Soyuz spacecraft. Those seats cost NASA up to $ 86 million each.
The launch also marked the first time in history that a commercial aerospace company brought humans into Earth’s orbit. SpaceX has worked on the Crew Dragon spacecraft for 15 years.
The launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has continued despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which has blocked both private and government operations in the United States. NASA says it was necessary to continue the mission to maintain the International Space Station, a gigantic orbiting laboratory fully equipped with U.S. astronauts.
NASA, SpaceX and military personnel gathered in the control rooms to support the launch and implemented additional security measures, such as changing the control rooms when a new shift begins so that the other room can be cleaned in depth. .
Prior to the launch, the space agency’s top official, Jim Bridenstine, said he hoped it would inspire awe and raise the public during the ongoing health crisis.
On the ground in Florida, local authorities were preparing for an influx of spectators who should have gathered on nearby beaches, which were recently reopened after weeks of freezing in the middle of the battle against Covid-19.
A few dozen journalists have been authorized to cover the launch from the Kennedy Space Center press area, but strict social removal policies and guidelines for wearing masks have been implemented. Bridenstine held most of the telephone briefings, for example, and in-person interviews were conducted one by one with reporters.
This launch also served as a sort of litmus test for NASA’s push to collaborate more with the private sector.
SpaceX developed Crew Dragon as part of NASA’s commercial crew program, which, for the first time in the history of the space agency, has delivered much of the design, development and testing of new human-level spacecraft to the sector private. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing a fixed price contract to get the job done, and after Boeing suffered a serious setback during an unmanned test flight last year,
That decision was not without controversy, particularly in the early days of the commercial crew program. But Wednesday’s success could be seen as a big win for NASA people hoping to rely more on similar contracts to help achieve the space agency’s goals.
Bridenstine, for example, hopes to rely heavily on private sector partnerships to achieve the space agency’s ambitious goal of landing US astronauts on the moon in 2024.
“Ultimately, what we are trying to achieve is to have numerous suppliers competing with each other in terms of costs, innovation and safety. And then NASA can be a customer, a customer of many customers, and we already know that this will save a tons of long-term cash, “Bridenstine told CNN Business’s Rachel Crane earlier this week.
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