SpaceX successfully launches astronauts into orbit

Two American astronauts launched into space in a rocket ship built by Elon Musk’s Space X.

The expedition by NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken marks nearly a decade since the U.S. last participated in space travel and Space X’s first successful launch with humans.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Center on May 30 at 3:22 p.m. The ship carried its new Crew Dragon spacecraft, where the astronauts are boarded, into space for the first time. Hurley and Behnken arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles above Earth, on May 31. The pair will stay at ISS for four months.

“I’m really quite overcome with emotion on this day, so it’s kind of hard to talk, frankly,” Musk said in a post-launch press conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “It’s been 18 years working towards this goal, so it’s hard to believe that it’s happened.”

The U.S. is the third country after Russia and China to launch humans into orbit via a private company. SpaceX’s test flight named Demo-2 will determine whether the company will begin launching astronauts to ISS in the future. If all goes well, it also opens the door for more commercial space exploration.

“I think this is something that’s particularly important in the United States but appeals to everyone throughout the world who has within them the spirit of exploration,” Musk said. “This is something that I think humanity should be excited about proud of occurring on this day.”

Since NASA retired its space shuttle in 2011, it outsourced the job of building its next generation of spaceships to SpaceX and Boeing. NASA awarded each company $7 billion in contracts to drive down the costs of the innovation. Boeing’s shuttle, the Starliner capsule, is expected to fly in early in 2021.

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