Astronauts launched from US soil for the first time by NASA and SpaceX

In nearly a decade, first time humans have traveled to Earth’s orbit from us soil as SpaceX spacecraft carrying two NASA astronauts soared into outer space on Saturday. Spacecraft left from Florida's Kennedy Space Center just after 3:20 pm ET. Both astronauts Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, will spend about 19 hours aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule before it slowly maneuvers its way toward the International Space Station. It is expected to dock with the space station around at 10:29 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 31.

Since 2011, United States hasn't launched its own astronauts into space as NASA's astronauts have had to travel to Russia to get trained on the country's Soyuz spacecraft. The cost of these seats for NASA had been around $86 million each. This launch is also a landmark in history as first time a commercial aerospace company has carried humans into Earth's orbit.

Despite the current pandemic caused by corona virus globally, the launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft has moved forward. According to NASA officials, it needed to carry on with the mission in order to keep the International Space Station, a giant orbiting laboratory, fully staffed with US astronauts. Only selected journalists were allowed to cover the launch from the press area at Kennedy Space Center as strict social distancing policies and guidelines around wearing masks were implemented. Apart from this most of the briefings were made by telephone, for instance, and in-person interviews were conducted one-by-one with news crews.


This launch has been a huge test for NASA's push to partner more extensively with the private sector. NASA helped SpaceX to develop Crew Dragon under its Commercial Crew Program. For this NASA handed over much of the design, development and testing of new human-rated spacecraft to the private sector. Though this decision to work with private sector has been a huge controversy for NASA but Saturday's success could be seen as a huge win for folks at NASA who hope to rely more extensively on similar contracts to help accomplish the space agency's goals.

NASA awarded this job to be done on fixed price contracts to SpaceX and Boeing. Though Boeing suffered a major setback during an un-crewed test flight last year, but this success has opened doors to rely heavily on private-sector partnerships. Especially for upcoming plan of landing US astronauts on the moon in 2024.

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