"For the first time in nine years, we have now launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I'm so proud of the NASA and SpaceX team for making this moment possible," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.
The spacecraft carrying Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken is scheduled to dock to the International Space Station on Sunday. After successfully docking, both astronauts will become members of the Expedition 63 crew and perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
The mission duration has not been announced yet. NASA said it will be determined once on the station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.
“I’m breathing a sigh of relief, but I will also tell you I’m not gonna celebrate until Bob and Doug are home safely,” NASA’s Bridenstine said. For SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk, the launch represents another milestone for the reusable rockets his company pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and more frequent.
The mission marks the first time commercially developed space vehicles - owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA - have carried the U.S. into orbit.