United States astronauts in spacecraft dock with ISS

The Crew Dragon coming in to dock at the International Space Station

"I know most of you, at SpaceX especially, know it as "Capsule 206, ' but I think all of us thought that maybe we could do a little bit better than that", Hurley said during the live broadcast".

It's the first time a privately built and owned spacecraft carried crew to the orbiting lab and the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in 9 years. "It's been 18 years working towards this goal".

"What a great day for NASA, what a great day for SpaceX, and what a great day for the United States of America", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "We designed it to be two-fault tolerant, which means that any two things could fail, so I could lose a flight computer and a thruster and I could still bring the crew home safely".

At the conclusion of the mission, Behnken and Hurley will board Crew Dragon, which will then autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

SpaceX said Crew Dragon was on the correct trajectory to link up with the space station orbiting 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Earth. The second stage also separated smoothly.

The launch was initially scheduled for Wednesday, but was scrubbed because of weather.

The launch comes as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, and as the U.S. faces nationwide protests after a black man died in Minneapolis while being arrested white police officer. President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence were present to witness the historic launch.

Trump made only a brief reference to the pandemic in his remarks, but spent several minutes at the beginning of his speech saying he would seek justice in the Floyd case and supporting the right for peaceful protest, but decrying violence that he blamed on "radical left criminals, thugs and others".

While a monumental achievement for NASA and SpaceX, which was founded in 2002 and has very public ambitions of one day launching crewed missions all the way to Mars, there remains some ways to go before Demo-2 is hailed a total success.

He also repeated his vow to send American astronauts back to the Moon in 2024 and eventually to Mars.

The three large displays that allow Hurley and Behnken to monitor systems and control the spacecraft are a world away from the analogue buttons, dials and control stick that featured in the cockpit of the shuttle, which flew from 1981 to 2011.

The use of music as an alarm clock continued during the Apollo program "when astronauts returning from the Moon were serenaded by their colleagues in mission control with lyrics from popular songs that seemed appropriate to the occasion", Fries wrote.

"We copy, docking is complete", said Hurley, the spacecraft commander. Musk was an emotional wreck after that mission, too.

The US space agency paid more than $3 billion for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable Dragon capsule for six future space round trips.

Saturday's launch was the first of American astronauts from USA soil since the mothballing of the United States shuttle program in 2011 that left Russia's more basic and reliable Soyuz spacecraft exclusively responsible for transporting crews.

The mission is a key milestone on the way to NASA certifying the Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the ISS.

The project has experienced delays, explosions, and parachute problems - but even so, SpaceX has beaten its giant competitor Boeing to the punch.



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