By Kenneth Chang
The first American spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts since the retirement of the space shuttles launched early Saturday. A successful mission could put NASA and the United States on the cusp of a renewed era of human spaceflight.
There were no people on this demonstration flight, a SpaceX vehicle called Crew Dragon. As lightning sparked in distant skies, the spacecraft lifted off at the appointed time, 2:49 a.m. Eastern Time, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida. Within 10 minutes the capsule was in orbit, headed toward a Sunday morning rendezvous with the International Space Station.
“Tonight was a big night for the United States of America, a great night for NASA,” Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, said during a news conference after the launch.
The launch was also an important step for the goals of Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 and who says the objective of the company is to send people to space and eventually Mars. “It’s been 17 years to get to this point,” said Mr. Musk.
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