When SpaceX launched NASA astronauts into orbit on Saturday, it marked the first time the agency has allowed a private company to carry its space staff to the International Space Station (ISS). The event comes nearly ten years from the decommissioning of the space shuttle program in 2010.
A historic moment in space travel
Two astronauts of the United States were aboard the spacecraft launched at 3:22 p.m. from the same Florida launchpad that the Apollo missions and space shuttles once used. SpaceX was responsible for the rocket and capsule that encompassed the craft, revealing a new sight to most space fans, as reported by the New York Times.
Elon Musk, the CEO of the private space agency, has supported the effort as a means to pursue his dream of someday sending humans to colonize Mars.
US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spectated the event along with a crowd of citizens. The audience all watched as the countdown slowly ticked down to zero as the engines of the Falcon 9 craft came to life with a roar.
The initial flight of the spacecraft started slow but quickly gained speed to look like a lustrous silver javelin heading into the skies up above. The launch was conducted three days after a previous attempt was cancelled due to dangerous weather conditions.
According to CNN, the two astronauts on board, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will continually be monitoring the status of their autonomous systems to ensure that everything is running smoothly and according to plans as the spacecraft slowly positions itself to meet up with the ISS.
One of the most dangerous parts of the trip consists of the initial launch itself and getting into Earth's orbit.
SpaceX engineer Lauren Lyons, who has a frequent host to the agency's mission webcasts became emotional after seeing the Falcon 9 reach space. "I can't believe it with my own eyes. I'm so grateful they're up there," she added.
The two astronauts are currently en route to the ISS, utilizing their craft's tiny thrusters to keep themselves oriented and to manoeuvre themselves in space.
Behnken and Hurley will travel for about 19 hours inside the Falcon 9 as they make their slow and steady journey in the vastness of space. The two are expected to dock at the station around 10:30 a.m. ET.
Coming back to our roots
The event marked the first time astronauts have been launched on US soil since the decommissioning of the shuttle program nearly ten years ago. Authorities decided as the space shuttle required high maintenance costs after every flight and did not provide any significant discovery or scientific leap forward.
NASA is a government agency, and their decisions are lead by the government and President George Bush declared the shutdown of the program would come in 2010 as part of his Vision for Space Exploration, as reported by Forbes.
In his speech regarding the move, he also revealed that he had plans to develop a new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) that would be used to bring us back to the Moon and even take us to Mars.