SWITZERLAND, MAY 31 – SpaceX founder Elon Musk was choked up with emotion after his company successfully launched astronauts to space for the first time on Saturday (May 30).
“I’m really quite overcome with emotion on this day, so it’s kind of hard to talk, frankly,” Musk said in a post-launch press conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida Saturday evening. “It’s been 18 years working towards this goal, so it’s hard to believe that it’s happened.”
Musk’s comments came a few hours after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, carrying a Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board.
By successfully launching its new Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts on board for the first time, SpaceX became the first private company to launch astronauts for NASA. The crewed test flight, called Demo-2, is also the first crewed launch from the United States since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. SpaceX and Boeing were both selected for NASA’s commercial crew program to wean the agency off its dependence on Russia’s Soyuz to fly astronauts after the shuttle program was retired.
“I think this is something that’s particularly important in the United States but appeals to everyone throughout the world who has within them the spirit of exploration,” Musk said. “This is something that I think humanity should be excited about proud of occurring on this day.”
If all goes well with the Demo-2 test flight, SpaceX will soon begin launching astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA as well as other space agencies and private companies. The first operational Crew Dragon mission, called Crew-1, could launch to the ISS as early as Aug. 30, with three NASA astronauts and one astronaut from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency on board.
The new capability the CEO is offering will end the reliance of Nasa on Russian rockets and capsules to get its people to the International Space Station (ISS).
It was a point picked up on by President Donald Trump, who came to Florida to watch the launch.
“Past leaders put the US at the mercy of foreign nations to send our astronauts into orbit. Not anymore,” he said. “Today we once again proudly launched American astronauts on American rockets – the best in the world – from right here on American soil.”
Hurley’s and Behnken’s Dragon ship left Earth atop its Falcon-9 rocket precisely on time – at 15:22 EDT (19:22 GMT / 20:22 BST).