SpaceX has launched NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on their historic Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. The mission is the first time that astronauts have launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011.
Hurley and Behnken blasted off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic launch pad 39A, which was also used for the Apollo and space shuttle programs, at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday. An attempt on Wednesday was scrubbed due to weather conditions.
The launch is the first time a private company, rather than a national government, has sent astronauts into orbit.
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There were concerns that bad weather would force Saturday's launch to be scrubbed, but the mission was able to proceed as planned. President Trump traveled to Florida for the launch.
Launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Hurley and Behnken are traveling to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon spacecraft built by the space company. Crew Dragon will accelerate to approximately 17,000 mph, according to NASA, placing the capsule on course for the International Space Station.
After a 12-minute flight to get into orbit, Crew Dragon will start its 19-hour journey to the orbiting space lab. The duration of the astronauts’ stay on the orbiting space lab is yet to be determined.
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Under normal circumstances, large crowds would have been expected to witness the historic launch but, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, NASA urged people to stay away.
STS-135, the last space shuttle mission, launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 8, 2011. The space shuttle Atlantis carried four NASA astronauts on the mission to resupply the ISS, as well as an experiment for robotically refueling satellites in space.
Since then, the U.S. has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to get astronauts into space. Russia charges the U.S. about $75 million to send an astronaut into space.
NASA recently agreed to pay Russian space agency Roscosmos $90 million for one final seat on one of its Soyuz rockets.
FeedLine.net’ Kristin Fisher, Lauren Blanchard and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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