Saturday, May 30, 2020 marks the return of human spaceflight in the United States. On Saturday, SpaceX made their first attempt in a long while to put their American astronauts back on the International Space Station. At 3:22 p.m. EDT (1:22 p.m. MST), SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was launched from Launch Complex LC-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.
The passengers were astronauts Robert “Bob” L. Behnken and Douglas “Doug” O. Hurley. Though it only held two people, the craft was equipped to comfortably hold a total of seven passengers. They planned to dock at the International Space Station at 10:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. MST) on Sunday, May 31, and this attachment was successful.
Though SpaceX was planning to launch at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, they also had a backup time of 3:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday just in case there were any unexpected weather conditions.
The launch was already postponed on Wednesday, May 27 due to disruptive and unsafe weather conditions, disappointing many watching fans. But the launch on Saturday was successful and was not postponed to May 31 or June 2, two dates set in place in case of any issues.
It has been nearly a decade since the United States has launched a rocket into space. This is because the government retired the space shuttle program in 2011, keeping rockets from governmental programs from launching. But now, SpaceX, a privately owned company, has broken that barrier.
SpaceX is owned and operated by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, PayPal, and much more. He has a dream of someday successfully putting people on the surface of Mars. He has even been asked to be buried on Mars, if possible.
Many people watched the Falcon 9 launch, some in person and others on the television while in quarantine. Roughly 150,000 were there in person, despite the suggestions to avoid large social gatherings, and millions more watched from their homes. Even President Trump and Vice President Pence themselves were in the crowd during the rocket launch.
“I’m so proud of the people at NASA, all the people that worked together, public and private,” President Trump said after the event.
The two astronauts that were launched into space on Saturday were chosen to be astronauts by NASA in 2000. Ever since then, they’ve been very close friends. They have both previously been military test pilots and have each flown separately twice. They’ve never been on a mission together until this day.
If this mission is successful, SpaceX plans to bring four more astronauts to the International Space Station later this year.
This is the first time SpaceX has put people in space. They’ve done unmanned missions before, but today marks their first time putting astronauts, and NASA ones at that, into one of their crafts.
In order to replace some of their shuttles, NASA has turned to SpaceX and Boeing. This is because this method is much less expensive than doing it on their own. They plan to use the Space Station for things other than just functionality and exploration. For example, NASA and President Trump have discussed partnering with these private companies to turn the Space Station into a place for tourism. They can sell tickets to allow people to orbit the SpaceX capsule and, eventually, the Boeing capsule as well.
Many other privately owned companies are jumping on the opportunity to send paying customers to the space in their capsules. Boeing will most likely not be able to launch astronauts into space until next year, as they have had previous software issues with their spacecrafts. But other companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic seem interested.
For more information, visit the official SpaceX website.
This single launch lays the foundation for the future exploration of the moon, Mars, and more, something that America is very excited for.