WASHINGTON:A pillar of fire tore through the skies above Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, as NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned to space on a historic mission nearly a decade in the making.”Congratulations to you and the team for the first human ride for Falcon 9,” Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel and mission commander, said from orbit. “It was incredible. I appreciate all the hard work and thanks for the great ride to space.”
The flight, known as Crew Dragon Demo-2, bridges the gap left by the space shuttle program’s final flight in July 2011. It’s the first time a private company has sent humans into orbit — and the first time in nearly a decade that the United States has launched astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil. Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Behnken, an Air Force colonel, also thanked SpaceX teams for “putting America back into low-Earth orbit from the Florida coast.”Inside Kennedy Space Center, a small crowd of a few thousand was a fraction of what it would have been without the threat of COVID-19.In attendance to watch the launch in person: President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who flew in for the event for the second time in four days. Elton John’s “Rocket Man” played at an operations building about two miles away as Trump watched the rocket take to the air.