SpaceX, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company, on Sunday launched four astronauts to the International Space Station. This is National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s first full-fledged mission involving sending crew into orbit through a privately-owned spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover, and Soichi Noguchi from Japan were sent into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
NASA said that the mission marked the beginning of a new era, where private firms will send astronauts to low-earth orbit, BBC reported. The astronauts will be in space for six months, NASA said.
The Dragon capsule on top of the capsule has been named Resilience by the crew, in view of the coronavirus crisis, AP reported. It will reach the space station late Monday.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the launch was a “great day” for both the US and Japan. “We look forward to many more years of a great partnership... all the way to the Moon,” he said.
United States President-elect Joe Biden congratulated NASA and SpaceX on the launch. “It’s a testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination,” he tweeted. “I join all Americans and the people of Japan in wishing the astronauts Godspeed on their journey.”
This is the second time SpaceX has teamed up with NASA. In May, the firm had launched two astronauts into orbit from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, AFP reported. The launch marked the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from American soil in nine years and the first time in history that a private aerospace firm carried humans into the Earth’s orbit.