Ahead of Saturday's successful liftoff, SpaceX actually raised $346.2 million in a new round of funding, the company announced on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The news came before Wednesday's initial launch of a man-led spacecraft, Crew Dragon, which is destined to dock at the International Space Station. The launch was delayed until Saturday, May 30, due to bad weather.
The launch is a vital step in its partnership with NASA, which is aiming to lessen its reliance on Russian spacecraft for trips to and from the ISS by using privately-built craft, which is where Elon Musk's company comes in. Saturday afternoon's launch marks the first human-crewed mission to space since the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off back in 2011.
The launch is not only breaking a near-decade-long hiatus in the U.S. space program, but it's also the culmination of SpaceX's $2.6 billion contract with NASA. Following the Atlantis launch in 2011, the Space Shuttle Program was canceled, while private sector investors were asked to take over the job of developing a new spacecraft. NASA's hope is that this could drive down costs, spur innovation while allowing the agency itself to enable it to refocus entirely on space exploration.
Former astronaut Mike Massimino spoke with PopCulture about the launch, as well as the partnership between NASA and SpaceX. "Now that it's getting close to happening, I'm getting more excited," he confessed. "It just feels right. I don't know how to explain it — there's something about launching from the United States that launching from someplace else doesn't have the same significance for American astronauts."
Massimino also spoke about the possibility of space tourism, which has long been one of Musk's goals. "When I looked at our planet from above, the impressions I had were lasting," he said. "No matter where we're from, we share the same home. ...I think that a global perspective, maybe some people can get it while walking around on earth, but it really is something to be seen from space."
Space travel is both a business venture and a passion project for Musk, which he views as vital to the future of humankind. While he's received criticism in the past for some of his more ambitious ventures, the contract with NASA lent the company a considerable amount of legitimacy. However, the explosion during an unmanned test launch during an unrelated project in Texas had a few people second-guessing how the launch might go Saturday.