Elon Musk made history on Saturday, May 30, after SpaceX successfully launched two NASA astronauts into orbit from Kennedy Space Center at 3:22 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The significant mission marked the first human liftoff from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, reigniting the country’s ambitions in space exploration after NASA announced its final space shuttle launch in 2011, The Washington Post reported.
SpaceX, which was founded by Musk in 2002, also made history in its own right as it became the first privately-owned corporation to send people into space — strengthening ties between public and private enterprise, and leading a new era of spaceflight.
“This is a dream come true for me and everyone else at SpaceX,” Musk said on Wednesday, the day of the intended launch, on NASA TV. “I didn’t even dream that this would come true.”
The partnership between Musk and the U.S. also had economical benefits as it helped alleviate the financial burden of sending American astronauts into space in Russian aircrafts — a move that has since cost the U.S. as much as $90 million per seat.
The spacecraft from Saturday’s mission, known as Crew Dragon, blasted off with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket that was developed by Musk’s company, Boeing, and NASA — who contributed nearly $4 billion to the project.
The Falcon 9 is the first of its kind, according to Business Insider.
The two astronauts on board are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both of whom are military test pilots, engineers, previous space-flyers, and fathers, per Business Insider.
“It is absolutely an honor to be part of this huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business,” Hurley said just before lifting off from Pad 29A, the same site that launched famed Apollo 11 for the moon.
Both President Trump and Vice President Pence, who is the chair of the National Space Council, were present for the momentous occasion in Cape Canaveral after flying in on Air Force One earlier Saturday.
Trump called the sight “an inspiration for our country” after the ship launched.
“I’m so proud of the people at NASA, all the people that worked together, public and private,” he added.
The event likely also attracted millions of viewers at home and came as a symbol of hope for many Americans as the country struggles with a pandemic that has led to more than 100,000 deaths, and several violent protests following the death of George Floyd.
“I’m breathing a sigh of relief, but I will also tell you I’m not going to celebrate until Bob and Doug are home safely,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, said after the astronauts successfully launched into orbit.