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Astronaut Liftoff!

NASA/JOEL KOWSKY

LAUNCH VEHICLE: The Falcon 9 is a 230-foot-tall rocket used to launch the Crew Dragon capsule into the atmosphere. The Crew Dragon returned safely to Earth on August 1, 2020, when it splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s one of the first spacecraft that can be reused for additional flights. 

On May 30, 2020, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, carrying astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the first time since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011 that a crewed spacecraft had taken off from U.S. soil.

The successful mission was also the first crewed launch for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a partnership between the space agency and aerospace companies SpaceX and Boeing. Previously, American astronauts flew to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan, in Central Asia.

The Crew Dragon blasted off from atop a massive Falcon 9 rocket. It generated nearly 1.7 million pounds of thrust, propelling the spacecraft skyward. The Falcon 9 detached from the spacecraft minutes after launch. About 18 hours later, the Crew Dragon capsule safely docked at the ISS. “I am simply amazed at what the NASA and SpaceX teams have accomplished together,” says Kathy Lueders, head of human spaceflight at NASA.

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