Two American astronauts lifted off into space Saturday afternoon, for the first time on a private rocket, nearly a decade after the last launch of astronauts from American territory.
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT, right on schedule, from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a rocket designed and built by a private company.
The California-based SpaceX Aerospace Co. is owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said before liftoff.
The first launch attempt scheduled for last Wednesday was postponed because of stormy weather in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center in the southeastern state of Florida.
Astronauts were last launched into space from the U.S. in 2011, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, retired its space shuttle fleet, forcing the U.S. to rely on partnerships with Russia’s space agency to carry U.S. astronauts to the orbiting International Space Station.
Hurley and Behnken are to orbit the Earth inside the newly designed Crew Dragon capsule for about 19 hours before trying to dock at the space station.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence flew to Florida for the launch, the second time this week. They were joined by more than 3 million viewers online, according to NASA’s count, and more spectators in person who lined beaches and roads nearby.