Elon Musk 'overcome with emotion' after SpaceX's 1st astronaut launch

Darnell Taylor
June 1, 2020

In this still image taken from NASA TV, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (front) and Doug Hurley reach orbit on Saturday, after launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This is SpaceX's final test flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program and will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

Crew Dragon is created to fly and dock entirely on its own, but part of this mission is ensuring that the manual controls work as designed in case astronauts ever need to make use of them in an emergency.

And so marks the end of America's dependence on foreign nations for spaceflight, an era that's spanned the last nine years after NASA retired its space shuttles.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said after the Crew Dragon launch, that NASA and Roscomos would likely maintain positive ties moving forward.

At the conclusion of the mission, Behnken and Hurley will board Crew Dragon, which will then autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has said resuming launches of American astronauts on American-made rockets from US soil is the space agency's top priority. "When I first came into office, three and a half years ago, NASA had lost its way, and the excitement, energy and ambition, as nearly everybody in this room knows, was gone", he said.

"It just might not be the same thing you'd want to use if you were suited up and trying to fly an entry or descent, for example, like we could do with the space shuttle", says Behnken. "It's been 18 years working towards this goal, so it's hard to believe that it's happened".

Hurley came next. And the three astronauts and friends embraced, along with two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

In this image taken from NASA TV video the SpaceX Dragon crew capsule with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken aboard docks with the International Space Station Sunday
Elon Musk 'overcome with emotion' after SpaceX's 1st astronaut launch

The mission "historic" because this is the first-ever time that a private spacecraft company - Space X - used its own rocket to put humans into space. "We will celebrate when they're home safely".

The launch comes as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, and as the U.S. faces nationwide protests after a black man died in Minneapolis while being arrested white police officer. Behnken was the first to enter the space station.

NASA plans to use Soyuz rockets to send some astronauts into space, with each seat costing around $80 million.

"Let's light this candle", Hurley, the mission commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3:22 pm (1922 GMT) from NASA's storied Launch Pad 39A.

Trump made only a brief reference to the pandemic in his remarks, but spent several minutes at the beginning of his speech saying he would seek justice in the Floyd case and supporting the right for peaceful protest, but decrying violence that he blamed on "radical left criminals, thugs and others".

The two astronauts were welcomed by the current crew at the ISS at 1:25 p.m. EDT, after executing a critical spacecraft docking milestone and kicking off the crew's potentially months-long stay in the orbital laboratory.

The pair, veterans of two space shuttle missions each, were in quarantine for more than two weeks ahead of the flight and were regularly tested for COVID-19.

After saying goodbye to their wives - both former astronauts - they were driven to the launch pad in an electric auto built by Tesla, one of Musk's other companies. And not to be outdone by Trump's boasts, he added in a bit of hype for Russia's future space endeavours as well.

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