Two NASA astronauts on Sunday entered the International Space Station from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft after a historic launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the dawn of a new age in commercial space travel.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is an independent agency for space research, aeronautics and related programmes in the US, confirmed the arrival of astronauts Bob Behnken (49) and Doug Hurley (53) at the ISS. “This is the first time in human history @NASA_Astronauts have entered the @Space_Station from a commercially-made spacecraft. @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug have finally arrived to the orbiting laboratory in @SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft,” NASA said in a tweet.
They were welcomed aboard the ISS where they became members of the Expedition 63 crew, which currently includes NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.
The docking had taken place 19 hours after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier confirmed the successful docking of the NASA astronauts with the ISS, the orbiting laboratory. “Docking confirmed – Crew Dragon has arrived at the @space_station!” the California-headquartered company announced on Twitter.
Saturday’s liftoff also assumes significance as it marks the launch of humans into orbit from US soil for the first time in nearly a decade. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Behnken and Hurley, lifted off at 3:22 pm EDT Saturday atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
With the liftoff, SpaceX became the first private company to launch people into the orbit, a feat achieved previously by only three governments: the US, Russia and China.
The successful launch, which was postponed early this week due to inclement weather, gave Americans something to cheer about as in the last three months they have lost over 100,000 of their countrymen due to the coronavirus that has brought the economy to its knees. More than 40 million people have lost their jobs.