Veteran Astronauts Blast Off from U.S. Soil: ‘This Is Everything America Has to Offer’

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and the Crew Dragon capsule, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard, lifts off Saturday, May 30, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are on their way to the International Space Station after a successful launch on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center as Mother Nature cooperated with favorable weather conditions.

The first attempt to blast off on Wednesday failed due to bad weather.

The launch of the Dragon SpaceX rocket, a partnership between NASA and Elon Musk’s private aerospace manufacturer, marks the first time that astronauts have launched from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle Atlantis made its voyage in 2011.

Three million people from around the world watched the livestream on NASA’s website while large crowds also gathered in Florida for the historic launch, including President Donald Trump.

“Look at em’ go,” a NASA official said as the spacecraft made its way into Earth’s orbit traveling 15,000 miles an hour.

Cheers could be heard breaking out in the control center as the successful launch took place.

“Dragon is now officially making its way to the International Space Station,” a NASA official said. “A day for the history books.”

“Congratulations to you and the entire team,” Behnken said from the capsule. “It was incredible. Thanks for the great ride to space.”

A large number of other special guests were on hand in Florida to watch the launch, including Vice President Mike Pence, members of his Cabinet who are part of the Trump-created National Space Council, and both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

“This is Launch America,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, said in an interview after the launch. “This is everything America has to offer in its purest form.

“And times are tough right now there is no doubt,” Bridenstine said. “We’ve got the coronavirus pandemic. We have other challenges as a country.” He went on to say:

But I hope this moment in time is an opportunity for everybody to reflect on humanity and what we can do when we work together, when we aspire and when we achieve. And if this can inspire a young child to become the next Elon Musk, or the next Jeff Bezos or the next Sir Richard Branson, then that’s what this is all about.

It will take 19 hours for the spacecraft to reach the International Space Station. Behnken and Hurley will spend about 120 days at the station before returning to Earth.

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