SpaceX, the private rocket company owned by billionaire Elon Musk, launched four astronauts – Michael S. Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor J. Glover, and Soichi Noguchi – into orbit on Sunday night. After the Resilience capsule landed at the International Space Station on Monday night, they began their six-month stay in space. In May of this year, SpaceX also launched two astronauts aboard the Dragonship Endeavor in what was the first U.S. “crewed mission” since 2011. Since the “retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011,” the U.S. has been reliant on Russian rockets to launch astronauts. Sunday’s launch marked SpaceX’s first full “operational” flight.
“The return of human spaceflight to the United States with one of the safest, most advanced systems ever built is a turning point for America’s future space exploration, and it lays the groundwork for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”SpaceX Official Website
Vice President Mike Pence praised the launch as a “new era in human space exploration in America.” “It marks the end of the development phase of the system. For the first time in history, there is a commercial capability from a private sector entity to safely and reliably transport people to space,” stated Phil McAlister, NASA’S Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development.
“It’s not yet the same as hopping on commuter flight from New York to Washington or renting a car from Avis, but Sunday’s launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station in a capsule built by SpaceX was a momentous step toward making space travel commonplace and mundane.”Kenneth Chang and Allyson Waller, writing for The New York Times
“This is the culmination of years of work and effort from a lot of people and a lot of time…We say sacred because it is sacred. We hold the lives of people in our hands. We transport them into space, stay there with them to be a lifeboat if they need it, and bring them home to their families. And that is really important.”Benji Reed, SpaceX Senior Director of Human Spaceflight