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Elon Musk's SpaceX launches NASA astronauts into orbit

2020-05-30 18:48 by
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Elon Musk's SpaceX made history Saturday launching two NASA astronauts into orbit aboard a commercially-owned spacecraft. That's the first human launch from U.S. soil in nearly a decade and a new partnership between industry and government aimed at revitalizing the country's space ambitions.

The two astronauts — veteran NASA fliers Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — rode into space inside SpaceX's new automated spacecraft called the Crew Dragon, a capsule designed to take people to and from the International Space Station. Strapped inside the sleek, gumdrop-shaped capsule, the duo lifted off on top of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22PM ET on Saturday. The rocket dropped the Crew Dragon off in orbit about 12 minutes later.

After reaching orbit, Behnken and Hurley will spend about 19 hours chasing down the International Space Station. The Dragon is designed to fly autonomously, but along the way they will test out some manual maneuvers just to make sure the backup systems are working. Although both astronauts will spend up to three-and-a-half months working on the space station, the Demo-2 mission is ultimately a test flight meant to show that the Crew Dragon capsule performs as expected. Behnken and Hurley will join an exclusive club of just seven astronauts who have been test pilots on a brand new spacecraft.

"Bob and Doug, on behalf of the entire launch team, thanks for flying with Falcon 9 today," Crew Dragon's chief engineer said to the two astronauts after they reached orbit. "We hope you enjoyed the ride and wish you a great mission." SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket also successfully landed on one of the company's drone ships following takeoff, making for a smooth launch throughout.

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