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Kennedy Space Center: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and DougHurley docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, marking the first US space capsule to do so with a crew since2011.The launch on Saturday SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, represented another milestone for the reusable rockets it pioneered to make space-flight less costly and more frequent. It also marked the first time that commercially developed space vehicles – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – have carried Ameri-cans into orbit. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 3:22 pm local times (1922GMT) for the journey to the International Space Station. 

Just before lift-off, Hurley said, “SpaceX, we’re going for launch. Let’s light this candle,” para-phrasing the famous comment uttered on the launch pad in 1961by Alan Shepard, the first Ameri-can flew into space.“I’m really quite overcome with emotion,” Musk said. “It has been 18 years working towards this goal. This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars.” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a “great day” for NASA and SpaceX and an “important milestone for the nation.” But he cautioned, “We will celebrate when they’re home safely.” In a brief interview from space, Hurley said that in keeping with the tradition of having astronauts name their spacecraft, he and Behnken had named the capsule“Endeavour” after the retired space shuttle on which they both flew. The mission, dubbed“Demo-2,” ends a government monopoly on space flight.

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