spacex launch

Nasa achieves first fully-fledged astronaut trip with private firm

Image credit: reuters

Four astronauts have been launched into space via a SpaceX Falcon rocket, in Nasa’s first fully fledged mission to send crew into orbit using a private firm.

Nasa astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi took off at 12.27am on Monday, UK time.

The flight, which is heading for the International Space Station (ISS) is expected to take around 27.5 hours door to door and will be fully automated unless the crew decides to take control.

It was originally due to take place on Saturday, but had to be delayed due to forecasts of gusty winds that could have made a return landing for the Falcon 9’s reusable booster stage difficult.

Nasa said it was the first time it had used a private firm to carry out such a trip after a similar test flight to the ISS with a smaller number of astronauts took place back in June.

That flight represented the first time that astronauts had been launched from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011. In the intervening years, Americans have been entering orbit using Russian Soyuz rockets launched from Kazakhstan.

“This is the culmination of years of work and effort from a lot of people, and a lot of time,” Benji Reed, SpaceX senior director of human spaceflight programs, said. “We have built what I would call one of the safest launch vehicles and spacecraft ever.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk was not present at the launch like he normally is as he is currently suffering from a “moderate case” of Covid-19. But, still watching remotely, Musk posted a simple heart symbol following the successful launch.

US Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, travelled from Washington to watch the launch.

“I didn’t start breathing until about a minute after it took off,” he said during a stop at SpaceX Launch Control to congratulate the workers.

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