NASA and SpaceX Make Historic Launch with First American Crewed Spaceflight in 9 Years

Julia LeDoux
May 30, 2020 - 9:23 am

Photo credit NASA

An active-duty Air Force colonel and a retired Marine colonel were at the controls Saturday when America launched its first crewed space flight in nine years.

Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, 49, of Creve Coeur, Missouri, and retired Marine Col. Doug Hurley, 53, of Endicott, New York, are inside the spacecraft, a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon, as it heads to the International Space Station. After a Wednesday launch was scrubbed for bad weather earlier in the week, the launch was successful Saturday afternoon.

"It is absolutely our honor to be part of this huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business," Hurley said from inside the spacecraft Saturday. "We'll talk to you from orbit."

The spacecraft launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 p.m. EST on Saturday and is expected to dock at the International Space Station on Sunday at about 2:27 p.m. EST.

"I've heard that rumble before, but it's a whole different feeling when you've got your own team on that rocket," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Saturday. "They are our team. They are America's team. This is 'Launch America.'"

"American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, showing you what Americans can do when we come together as a team," astronaut Leland Melvin said.

In a tweet last month that announced the launch, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the space agency "will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”

Behnken and Hurley are test pilots and veterans of previous space shuttle flights. Behnken was aboard the Endeavour in 2008 and 2010 and has more than 37 hours of spacewalk experience. Hurley was on the Endeavour in 2009. He was also the pilot of the Atlantis during its final mission in July of 2011.

As joint operations commander for the mission, Behnken is responsible for rendezvous, docking and undocking with the space station. Hurley is in charge of launch and landing as spacecraft commander, according to NASA

The spacecraft is owned by SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk.

Launch managers made a final assessment about 45 minutes before launch when Behnken and Hurley would normally arm the abort system a few minutes before fueling begins.

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