SpaceX successfully launches first crew to orbit

After nearly two decades of effort, Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX has orbited its first two people, leading to a new era of human space travel in the United States. For the first time in a decade, astronauts orbit the American soil, SpaceX being the first company to send passengers in a privately built vehicle.

Two astronauts - prominent NASA aviators Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - are SpaceX's new automated spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, designed to transport people to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was lifted from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 PM ET on Saturday. About 12 minutes later, the Rocket Crew Dragon was put into orbit. The couple will spend the next morning in orbit before docking with the International Space Station.

For SpaceX, a company founded by Musk with the goal of sending humans into space and building Mars, the launch was a pivotal moment. This is the last major test for SpaceX as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Through that initiative, NASA partnered with SpaceX and Boeing to develop new space missions that could permanently transport the agency's astronauts in and out of space. After six years of development and testing on the Crew Dragon, SpaceX jumped into the race to launch humans. Today's mission is SpaceX's last major test flight for that program, the Crew Dragon, which is set to take NASA astronauts regularly to the RSS for years to come.

Although this mission is considered a test, it still carries a lot of weight for the United States. The last flight of the NASA spacecraft took place on July 8, 2011, and finally, people were in orbit. Since then, the Russian-based Soyuz rocket has been the only vehicle available for cruise flight to the ISS, with the single-seat Soyuz for $ 80 million.

The Commercial Crew Program is designed to end NASA's reliance on Russia and begin a new way of doing business with NASA. For all astronauts’ history, the government oversees the design, production, and operation of a spacecraft that keeps humans in orbit. NASA has asked the private sector to engage with commercial personnel. When SpaceX and Boeing signed on for the first time in 2014, NASA expects their vehicles to fly by 2017. Technical delays and test failures hampered the program, but eventually, SpaceX became a landmark.

The Crew Dragon is designed to automatically dock with the ISS without the need for input from staff, however, when two astronauts arrive at the station, the capsule tries to maneuver using the touchscreen monitor controls. After testing that interface, astronauts relinquish control of the Crew Dragon, which attempts to automatically access the station and connect it to the available docking port. Docking will take place at 10:29 AM ET on Sunday.

Two astronauts must finally get home - and see the Crew Dragon's ability to safely return to Earth. NASA has not decided when the couple will go home; It will be in the next six to 16 weeks. In making that decision, Benken and Hurley return to their Crew Dragon capsule and embark on an intensive journey through the atmosphere of our planet. The Crew Dragon has a warm armor to protect the astronauts from the exciting landing and has a four-parachute suite designed to open the vehicle and minimize the Atlantic Ocean. After a splashdown, a SpaceX recovery boat greets the crew and takes them and their cartridge back to shore.

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