31 May 2020: SpaceX successfully launches its first crewed spaceflight
22 May 2020: Astronomer tells Wikinews about discovery of closest black hole known so far
12 October 2019: Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov dies at age 85
10 October 2019: Swedish academy announces 2019 Nobel Prize winners in physics
14 September 2019: Astronomers find water vapour in atmosphere of exoplanet K2-18b
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Sunday, May 31, 2020
SpaceX successfully launched its first crewed mission at 1922 UTC yesterday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket. This was the first launch of a crewed spacecraft from the United States since NASA's final Space Shuttle mission in July 2011 — a mission Hurley piloted.
Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken walk towards the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center for a dress rehearsal May 23; the two launched successfully aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket yesterday.Image: NASA/Brandon Garner.
SpaceX, backed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, is the first private company to send astronauts into space. The company has engineered and operated reusable rockets, potentially reducing the overall cost of future space missions. Shortly after the launch, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage disengaged and returned to an autonomous spaceport drone ship off the coast, to be refurbished and reused on a future mission. Behnken and Hurley are slated to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS) for a stay of one to four months, docking today at 1429 UTC.
The originally planned launch on Wednesday afternoon, local time, was scrubbed due to inclement weather conditions less than 20 minutes before scheduled launch time, with the schedule pushed back to yesterday. Unlike Wednesday's scrub, however, yesterday's launch proceeded without issue. Hurley, on radio following the minutes-long ride to low Earth orbit, said, "It was incredible".
SpaceX's launch is the latest development in a program initiated in earnest by NASA's 2014 selection of SpaceX, along with Boeing, to be an initial commercial contractor providing transportation for NASA astronauts to the ISS. Boeing's first crewed mission is reportedly expected to launch next year. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttles in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport its astronauts to the orbiting space station.
Hurley, along with his fellow crew members aboard the final Shuttle mission, had left a small U.S. flag aboard the ISS, to be retrieved when the U.S. space program was once again able to launch astronauts to the outpost. Hurley and Behnken, when they depart, plan to return this flag to Earth after a nearly nine-year hiatus to commemorate the milestone. The exact timing of their return is not set, however, as it depends on the continued performance of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and on when the next Crew Dragon mission occurs, which NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said may be to launch by late August.
Bridenstine remarked of the remainder of the test flight, "I'm breathing a sigh of relief, but I will also tell you I'm not gonna celebrate until Bob and Doug are home safely." Hurley, for his part, paraphrased the first U.S. citizen in space, Alan Shepard, commenting before launch on the occasion of the United States' return to human spaceflight capability: "SpaceX we're go for launch. Let's light this candle."
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"End of an era: Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on final mission in program" — Wikinews, July 8, 2011
Amy Thompson. "Liftoff! SpaceX launches 1st astronauts for NASA on historic test flight" — Space.com, May 30, 2020
Joey Roulette. "NASA resumes human spaceflight from U.S. soil with historic SpaceX launch" — Reuters, May 30, 2020
Marcia Dunn (AP). "SpaceX rocket ship blasts off into orbit with 2 Americans" — ABC News (United States), May 30, 2020
Michael Sheetz. "Elon Musk touts low cost to insure SpaceX rockets as edge over competitors" — CNBC, May 30, 2020