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NASA Astronauts Launched By SpaceX Reach International Space Station, Celebrate Historic Moment

Neer Varshney

The Space Exploration Company's Crew Dragon, with two NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, docked at the International Space Station's Harmony Port at 10:16 am ET on Sunday after a 19-hour journey, NASA confirmed.

Astronauts Join NASA's Expedition 63 Crew

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket had launched at 3:22 pm ET Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in the first such launch from American soil in nine years.

The two astronauts successfully entered the space station at 01:02 PM ET and will work with the NASA Expedition 63 crew led by Christopher Cassidy. "The whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you've done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Behnken and Hurley at a conference call.

"We're just happy to be here and [Cassidy] is going to put us to work. And hopefully we will fit in and not mess too many things up," said Hurley.

Major Milestone For SpaceX

The Crew Dragon journey marks a major milestone for SpaceX, since being founded back in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

SpaceX has become the first private enterprise to successfully take people to space following the mission's success, a feat only previously achieved by national space agencies.

"This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX," the company's Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who also leads Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) had said following the launch.

"It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen."

Behnken and Hurley's return date is yet to be planned as they aid space research efforts at the short-staffed ISS. The Crew Dragon is certified for a stay of up to four months in space, and the return journey will likely be ahead of that time.

President Donald Trump, the First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were among the attendees of the event in Florida.

Image Credit: Courtesy of NASA.

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