At 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time today from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, lifted off in a SpaceX capsule called the “Crew Dragon” bound for the International Space Station in low orbit.
The mission, Demo-2, is the first time America has sent anyone to space since 2011. With success, Elon Musk’s Crew Dragon, powered by the Falcon 9 rocket, will be slated for operational crewed missions later this year.
Engineer and Former NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott told Innovation & Tech Today the launch “signifies America’s space program.”
“We are doing challenging things and we are launching again from U.S. soil,” she said. “This launch is about helping our international partners to space, while continuing to develop commercial opportunities as well.”
The spaceflight is expected to take the Crew Dragon approximately 19 hours to reach the International Space Station. The two-man crew will steer the capsule to its initial orbit just over 10 minutes after lift-off where it will slowly raise its orbit to dock with the station.
The mission is expected to last one month, but neither NASA or SpaceX have released a return date for the astronauts. Both entities have worked together on joint cargo flights to the space station since 2012, but a new agreement struck by NASA will allow SpaceX, Dynetics, and a Blue Origin-led team to develop moon-landers to carry astronauts back and forth to the lunar surface for NASA.
Stott said the initial launch would “bring back a lot of answers” and provide direction for future flights while showcasing NASA’s commercial partners in the endeavor.
“All these companies are helping us go back to the moon,” she said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed for 2024, and not just for traveling to the moon, but for also establishing permanent settlements there and using that platform to benefit life on earth.”