The launch of the SpaceX craft Crew Dragon went off successfully on Saturday, marking the first crewed launch since 2011 (not to mention the second attempt at liftoff just this week). The takeoff seemed to go off without a hitch, and Crew Dragon is currently in space. Plenty of people tuned in to watch the historic moment take place live, but those who missed it can view the event online anytime.
Following Wednesday's weather-related delay, the Crew Dragon is now en route to the International Space Station. The craft has docked at the ISS in the past, but only as an uncrewed craft. To mark the historic occasion, the launch took place at the Kennedy Space Center, which was the very same launchpad used to send Apollo astronauts to the moon back in 1968. The crew aboard the SpaceX craft were astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both of whom started their careers as military test pilots and since logged thousands of hours piloting supersonic jets. NASA selected the pair for the mission back in 2018.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/DRBfdUM7JA— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
The Crew Dragon is also quite different from the typical NASA Space Shuttle, which is a smaller vessel that launches from the top of a larger rocket. The last time a human-crewed mission occurred, it was the Space Shuttle Atlantis back in 2011. The following year, the Atlantis was put on display in the Kennedy Space Center Visitors' Complex, where it remains to this day.
The launch also signifies the first step in NASA's new phase, which partly involves them ending their reliance on Russian spacecraft to transport American astronauts to and from the ISS. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the occasion would mark "a new generation, a new era in human spaceflight." He added that "NASA has long had this idea that we need to build, own, and operate hardware to get to space."
Saturday's launch is a welcome bit of good news for Elon Musk's space exploration company. On Friday, an uncrewed test launch at a facility in Texas ended up causing an explosion and disrupting the nearby residents of Boca Chica. The project wasn't related to the Crew Dragon, but that didn't stop people from drawing comparisons on Twitter.