CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – (AP) A rocket ship built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company thundered away from Earth with two Americans on Saturday, ushering in a new era of commercial space travel and putting NASA back in the business of launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode skyward aboard a sleek, white-and-black, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off from the same launch pad used to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago. The flight had been delayed three days because of stormy weather in Florida.
“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said, borrowing the words used by Alan Shepard on America’s first human spaceflight in 1961.
The two men are scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on Sunday for a stay of up to four months, after which they will return to Earth in a Right Stuff-style splashdown at sea.
SpaceX and NASA will try for a second time to make history by launching two astronauts into space on Saturday afternoon.
The launch is scheduled for Saturday at 2:22 p.m. central time, but the weather forecast will once again determine whether the rocket will actually be able to take off.
KSAT will have multiple livestreams of the launch, via NASA. Livestreams will begin around 10 a.m.
The first attempt on Wednesday was called off in the last few minutes due to inclement weather. If the launch is successful this time, it would be the first human spaceflight in nearly a decade on US soil.
The historic flight is a first for a private company. Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are slated to ride aboard the Falcon rocket.
A successful launch would put Elon Musk’s SpaceX in a prestigious category with just three countries: Russia, the United States, and China.
The United States has not launched its own astronauts into space since 2011, when the Space Shuttle program ended. Since then, NASA’s astronauts have had to travel to Russia and train on the country’s Soyuz spacecraft.
“Bob and Doug are cool as cucumbers," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "They are absolutely itching to go fly. So these are the best that America has to offer and, yes, it is emotional for me because a lot is riding on this.”
NASA has pushed ahead with the launch despite the coronavirus pandemic, but asked spectators to stay at home to lower the risk of spreading the virus.
*CNN contributed to this report