President Donald Trump watched two American astronauts embarked on the first manned mission to outer space from U.S. soil in nearly a decade on Saturday, formally ushering in a new era of space flight in which private companies — not the government — will send humans into orbit.
Aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule are astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken, two veterans of the now-retired Space Shuttle Program who are set for an extended stay on the International Space Station (ISS). Exactly how long they will stay has yet to be determined.
“Hopefully a great, successful and safe ROCKET LAUNCH. Lifting off soon!?!?” President Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon after traveling to Florida for a second time this week to witness the launch first hand.
After the shuttle program was retired, NASA charged SpaceX, the private space travel company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002, with carrying astronauts into orbit. The program funding private companies’ efforts to send humans into orbit is called Commercial Crew.