Momentous: SpaceX launches 1st astronaut crew on a private spacecraft

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Resilience Image
The spacecraft preparing to launch from NASA's space center

Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX launched four astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station marking NASA’s first full-fledged mission of sending a team into the orbit on a privately operated spacecraft.

The International Space Station (ISS) is an orbiting laboratory about 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth.

SpaceX’s latest built Crew Dragon capsule, named “Resilience” by the team, lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Eastern time 00:27 GMT from NASA’s Cape Canaveral, Florida, Kennedy Space Center, US.

“That was one heck of a ride,” astronaut Mike Hopkins said from Crew Dragon to SpaceX mission control after launching.

Crew Dragon will progressively lift its orbit for the next 27 hours through a sequence of onboard thruster firings aimed at docking at 11 PM (East Time) at the ISS.

NASA officials said that “An air leak caused an unexpected drop in capsule pressure less than two hours before launch, but technicians said they conducted a successful leak check, and the scheduled launch was still on.”

The 27-hour journey to the space station was originally expected to start on 14th November. But the launching of the spacecraft was postponed for a day due to forecasts of unsuitable weather, which would have made a return touchdown difficult for the Falcon 9’s reusable booster stage, said NASA officials.

The spacemen wore their custom white flight suits and reached on time in three white Tesla SUVs, accompanied by NASA and SpaceX employees, at the Kennedy Space Center launchpad.

SpaceX mission operator Mr. Jay Aranha told the crew to “have an amazing trip, and know that we are all for one.”

Mission commander Mike Hopkins said, “To all the people at NASA and SpaceX, by working together through these difficult times, you’ve inspired the nation the world. And now it’s time for us to do our part, Crew 1 for all.”

US Vice-President Mike Pence attended the launch and said that under President Donald Trump, America had “renewed our commitment to lead in human space exploration.”

President-elect Joe Biden tweeted his appreciation, saying the launch was “a testament to the power of science.”