The launch went smoothly. The two astronauts on board, Douglas Hurley (53) and Bob Behnken (49), are going to the International Space Station, their stay for the coming months. They arrive there on Sunday. It is also the first manned U.S. space flight since 2011.
The launch was initially scheduled for last Wednesday, but then takeoff was called off due to bad weather. President Donald Trump attended the launch. He is the third U.S. President to be on a manned launch at Cape Canaveral.
The rocket’s first stage, which caused the capsule to lift off the ground, landed safely and monitored on a special vessel in the Atlantic Ocean about 10 minutes after launch. The ship, called Ofcourse I Still Love You, brings the launcher ashore for reuse.
The Hurley and Behnken vessel is called the Crew Dragon. It was built by SpaceX, the company of businessman Elon Musk. The capsule is not operated with buttons and switches, but with screens that resemble tablet computers. The Dragons have been used for several years to supply the ISS unmanned. In January, SpaceX deliberately failed an (unmanned) launch of the vessel to see if a crew could be safely returned to Earth in an emergency. It worked.
Hurley and Behnken have both been in space before. They followed astronaut training together in 2000. Hurley was the pilot who last grounded a space shuttle, the Atlantis in July 2011. Behnken stayed in the ISS in 2008 and 2010, when he performed six spacewalks. Hurley is married to astronaut Karen Nyberg, who was in space twice. Behnkens wife K. Megan McArthur repaired the Hubble space telescope in 2009.
Until now, only the U.S. government, the Soviet Union / Russia, and China had managed to take people to space.
In a few years, the United States wants to bring people back to the moon and back. Another vessel is being developed for this, the Orion.
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