Two NASA astronauts, Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first time that people headed to orbit in an American rocket launching from the United States since the previous space shuttle mission, in 2011.
More remarkable was the rocket and the capsule, which was designed and operated not by NASA but by a private company: Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Mr. Behnken and Mr. Hurley named the capsule Endeavour, a tip of the hat to the former space shuttle the astronauts first traveled to space aboard.
The next day, the Dragon capsule docked at the space station.
“As you are performing your inventory, please collect all your food and water bottle trash,” Anna Menon, a SpaceX mission controller in Hawthorne, Calif., reminded the two men before they exited their spacecraft.
Mr. Hurley and Mr. Behnken returned to Earth in August, and four more astronauts are scheduled to head to orbit this month in the next Crew Dragon flight.
By choosing a commercial provider, NASA hopes to save money and spur development of new space businesses, as SpaceX can also sell seats on its Dragon capsule to non-NASA customers. (NASA has also selected another private company, Boeing, whose capsule’s first flight with passengers has been delayed, likely until next year).
”This is really just the beginning,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, said after the successful splashdown. “We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low Earth orbit and onto the moon and then ultimately onto Mars.”
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