• Saturday’s SpaceX launch made history by launching astronauts from US soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle era that ended almost a decade ago.
  • The launch was also a milestone moment in history for being the first time this has happened after being facilitated by a private company — in this case, SpaceX, working in partnership with NASA.
  • This is the last step for SpaceX before Crew Dragon is certified for use by NASA.

To me, one of the most inspiring things about Saturday’s SpaceX launch of the first American astronauts from US soil in almost a decade — and the first time in history that a private company has facilitated this — was how it captivated people around the country and the world, at a time when people are pretty desperate for some good news. At one point Saturday afternoon, I noticed that more than 3 million people were tuned in to the SpaceX live stream via YouTube, watching in awe as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket prepared to carry a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule skyward.

The spacecraft, as my colleague Mike Wehner previously noted, lifted off Saturday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the International Space Station, where it will deliver NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. The duo will remain on the space station for somewhere between a few weeks and a few months, depending on what NASA decides after they arrive.

In the years since NASA ended its own Space Shuttle Program, NASA astronauts have had to resign themselves to traveling to Russia to train on its Soyuz spacecraft. And hitching a ride to space on those has cost NASA as much as $86 million each.

A few days ago, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted how important it is, even during the time of the coronavirus pandemic, for a mission like the one we witnessed Saturday to go forward and give people something to be inspired by. In case you missed today’s events, meanwhile, here are some photos that capture the moments leading up to the historic launch:

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10-year-old Jack Hurley waves at his dad, NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley, as Hurley and fellow astronaut Robert Behnken depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center. Image source: John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock

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NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. Image source: Shutterstock

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SpaceX Falcon 9, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Dragon crew capsule, lifts off Saturday afternoon. Image source: John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock

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The manned SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission continues its liftoff from Launch Complex 39A. Image source: ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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SpaceX founder Elon Musk jumps in the air inside the the Vehicle Assembly Building after the manned SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Image source: ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, social media, naturally, was also flooded with reaction and congratulations in the wake of Saturday’s launch. “SpaceX is returning human spaceflight to the United States with one of the safest, most advanced systems ever built, and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a turning point for America’s future in space exploration that lays the groundwork for future missions to the MoonMarsand beyond,” the company said about the launch.


Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.