Watch SpaceX and NASA make history

Four years after Elon Musk began the project, and nine years after the last launch on American soil, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, and Musk's SpaceX have sent two Americans into space with the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Centre. "The whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you've done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Behnken and Hurley at a conference call. Then, at about 10:30 AM Sunday eastern time, Hurley and Behnken will arrive at the International Space Station, where the Crew Dragon will engage its new automated docking system.

Crew members for that mission are to be NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

"It flew really well, very crisp", Hurley said.

For Musk, the launch represents another milestone for the reusable rockets his company pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and more frequent.

The mission unfolded amid the gloom of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans, and racial unrest across the US over the case of George Floyd, the handcuffed black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police. (NASDAQ: TSLA) had said following the launch.

More news: World's first floating Apple store to open in Singapore

The astronauts slept for about eight hours before the approach to the space station. Accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, she brought face masks and a small tent to protect against the elements.

"I wanted them to see the flip side and get to see the next era of space travel", said Gatz, who lives in Deltona, Florida. "It's exciting and hopeful".

Since NASA retired its space shuttle in 2011, it outsourced the job of building its next generation of spaceships to SpaceX and Boeing. Contrary to the usual NASA procedure, SpaceX fueled up the Falcon 9 after the two astronauts had already boarded the Dragon.

Over the past decade, NASA astronauts only used Russian Soyuz rockets and capsules to reach the space station, at a cost of more than $70 million per seat.

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