SpaceX and NASA have successfully launched the first crewed mission into space from USA soil in nine years. Tomorrow morning, Behnken and Hurley will be docking with the ISS. Contractors built the spacecraft, but they did so with heavy input from NASA. You can watch it live right here courtesy of NASA TV, with coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. ET (8:00 a.m. PT).
Saturday's launch was the start of a test flight evaluating Crew Dragon's systems and capabilities.
Wednesday's countdown of the rocket and its bullet-shaped Dragon capsule was halted at just under 17 minutes because of the threat of lightning. The astronauts will get around eight hours of sleep later today, before they arrive at the space station.
"We're trying to make sure we have access to the International Space Station without drawing the massive amount of crowds that we usually would".
"Let's light this candle", Hurley said, borrowing the words used by Alan Shepard on America's first human spaceflight in 1961.
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Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: "we aren't necessarily looking for the most technical skill", Rowling explained.
The shift is also a means of cost-saving at a time when NASA's budget is no longer close to the height it reached in the 1960s during the Apollo program.
The last time Nasa launched astronauts into space on a new vehicle was 40 years ago at the beginning of the shuttle program. In 1966, the space agency had an inflation-adjusted budget of about $47 billion; in 2020, NASA's budget was $22.6 billion. No date has been set for the return of the Crew Dragon, but the spacecraft can stay docked for upwards of 100 days. Once in atmosphere, it'll release its parachutes to slow the fall back to Earth, and coast to a landing in the Atlantic Ocean, where SpaceX crews will recover the capsule and provide the astronauts their ride back to dry land. The Hawthorne company now regularly transports cargo for NASA to the space station, as does Northrop Grumman Corp. In preparation for Wednesday's flight, SpaceX sent up a Dragon capsule with only a test dummy aboard past year, and it docked smoothly at the orbiting outpost on autopilot, then returned to Earth in a splashdown.
Crowds gathered on a bridge in Titusville, Florida Wednesday to watch the SpaceX launch.
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"We were founded in 2002 to fly people to low-Earth orbit, the moon and Mars", SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters earlier this month.
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In 18 years, SpaceX has transformed from scrappy upstart to aerospace titan. The company whose first three rocket launches ended in failure has now made landing first-stage boosters back on Earth seem routine and amassed a diverse range of customers including commercial satellite operators, the USA military and NASA.
As on Wednesday, the only remaining hurdle is the weather, and once again it doesn't look great.
"Maybe there's an opportunity here for America to maybe pause and look up and see a bright, shining moment of hope at what the future looks like, that the United States of America can do extraordinary things even in hard times", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said before launch.
But in the end, the weather cooperated.
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Le ministre souligne la nécessité de respecter strictement la mesure afin de limiter au maximum l'éventuel impact sur la santé publique.