SpaceX became the first private company to send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 30, 2020. It is the first manned flight from the United States in nine years.
It was the company’s second attempt after a first call canceled at the last minute on Wednesday for fear of lightning strikes.
About ten minutes after launch, part of the Falcon 9 rocket landed on a platform off Florida. This will allow the company to reuse it for future missions.
NASA is back and the United States is again at the forefront of space exploration, said Vice President Mike Pence at a post-launch conference.
The objective is clear after this first launch in nine years: to return to the Moon and then send Americans to the surface of Mars, repeated the vice-president, praising at the same time the courage of the astronauts and the ingenuity of NASA.
SpaceX had given the green light to fill the tanks, suggesting that the mission would go ahead on Saturday afternoon.
Shortly before, President Donald Trump arrived on Air Force One to attend the launch.
Just under three hours before takeoff, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken boarded the Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
This must propel them at a speed five times that of sound to reach the International Space Station.
Bob and I are ready for launch, the two astronauts on board said earlier.
The mission may seem like a modest step in space exploration: the two men will neither go to the Moon nor to Mars.
NASA, however, sees it as a “revolution” because SpaceX will give back to the United States access to space at a lower cost than its previous programs. For the three billion granted since 2011, SpaceX has fully developed a new space taxi and promised its client six round trips to the space station.
Elon Musk brought to the American space program the vision and inspiration we have been missing for nine years, since the end of the space shuttles. He’s brilliant, said, admiring, NASA boss Jim Bridenstine on Friday.
Sawtooth journey for SpaceX
SpaceX’s path to launch has not been linear. Its first three launches failed. A rocket exploded on the ground with a precious satellite in its cap, another shortly after launch with refueling for the ISS.
Last year, the Dragon capsule itself exploded during a ground engine test. The program should have started in 2017.
Symbolic change, it will not be a man from NASA who will give the final authorization for takeoff, but the director of the launch of SpaceX, Michael Taylor, the officials of the American space agency having no role in the account backward.
Crew Dragon is a capsule-like Apollo, but a 21st-century version. Touch screens have replaced buttons and joysticks, Artificial intelligence plays a major role in this, you can check more about AI here. The interior is dominated by white, the more subtle lighting. A single “umbilical” cord connects the suits to the seats to provide fresh air and communications for the two men.
Unlike the shuttles, one of which exploded in 1986 after takeoff, Dragon can eject itself in an emergency if the rocket has a problem.
If it is certified safe when Dragon returns to Earth in a few months, the Americans will no longer depend on the Russians to access space: since 2011, the Soyuz was the only space taxis available. Routings from Florida will become regular, with four astronauts on board.