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US President Donald Trump,watches the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida (Photo: Reuters)
US President Donald Trump,watches the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida (Photo: Reuters)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches first ever crewed space mission by a private company

NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode skyward aboard a sleek, white-and-black, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket

Elon Musk’s SpaceX made history today by launching the first crewed mission to space by a private company. It was also the first space mission to take off from US soil since 2011. The mission was originally scheduled for 27 May, but the company had to cancel it thanks to a tropical storm in Florida, which is where the launch took place.

The launch is critical for SpaceX, since the company was set up with the specific purpose of sending humans into space and colonizing Mars. Today’s mission also served as a major test for SpaceX on the road to becoming the regular spacecraft for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to send astronauts to space. The Crew Dragon will rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) in approximately 24 hours.

Today’s launch also proves SpaceX’s viability for manned space missions and offers NASA an alternative to the Russian Soyuz rockets they have been using so far.

The launch used SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rockets to take astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. “It is absolutely our honor to be part of his huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business. We’ll talk to you from orbit," Hurley said a few minutes before the launch.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are unique, since most of the expensive parts of the rocket can be reused after a launch. This saves a big part of the cost associated with launching satellites and other space missions. The rocket also returned to Earth successfully during this launch. The company had done 83 launches and 44 landings, with 31 rockets being reused, before today’s mission.

Hurley is the spacecraft commander for the mission and has been an astronaut since the year 2000. He has completed two successful spaceflights and served as a pilot and lead robotics operator for both STS-127 and STS-135 space missions by NASA. Behnken is the joint operations commander and has also been an astronaut since 2000, completing two space shuttle flights like his compatriot.

The mission was conducted off the same launchpad in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which was used for the historic Apollo space missions.

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