CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Thousands of people gathered to witness history as two NASA astronauts blasted off from the Space Coast Saturday afternoon on a SpaceX rocket, marking the first crewed flight to lift off from U.S. soil since 2011 and the first-ever crewed flight aboard a commercially made spacecraft.
The man behind the historic Demo-2 mission, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, sat down with News 6 space expert and anchor and reporter Erik von Ancken to talk about the milestone in U.S. spaceflight.
According to Musk, the job wasn’t done once the rocket was off the ground. Veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley still had to dock at the International Space Station Sunday morning and Musk said he couldn’t rest until they safely arrived.
Still though, Musk said he couldn’t help but get emotional after Saturday’s launch while looking at what his team had already accomplished after years of working toward the goal of sending American astronauts to space.
“I'm quite overcome with emotions on this day. It's hard to talk frankly. It’s been 18 years working towards (this) goal, so it's hard to believe it’s happened."
Saturday’s launch marked the second attempt to launch Hurley and Behnken to the ISS in SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.
[Live video and updates: NASA astronauts liftoff in SpaceX Crew Dragon from Florida]
Crowds turned out for the first attempt on Wednesday, which was scrubbed less than 20 minutes before scheduled liftoff due to bad weather.
Space fans feared the weather wouldn’t cooperate again on Saturday when storms dumped rain on parts of Central Florida but the weather held off long enough to launch the astronauts – and a sparkly dinosaur their sons gave them as a travel buddy for the long trip -- from Kennedy Space Center, prompting crowds of spectators to cheer as they sent the astronauts on their way.
We know the launch is historic, but what exactly does it mean to those who gathered on the Space Coast to witness that moment in person?
Musk thinks it means a lot more excitement is just around the corner.
“Very much appreciate the support of the Space Coast, all the people in Florida that have helped us get here. And I think there’s going to be a lot of excitement, a lot more activity. We’re going to be obviously sending a lot of rockets to the space station and hopefully the moon and Mars from right here, from the Space Coast,” Musk said. “So just want to say thank you for your support and look forward to many exciting things in the future.”
Musk said he knows it was a long almost-decade without human spaceflight activity for space fans who live and work on the coast and a lot of work went into bringing it back.
“I think there's a lot of people to thank for the progress here. I have a lot of appreciation for the current and prior administration,” Musk said.
[Timeline: Here’s what NASA astronauts did on launch day]
Saturday’s flight was just the beginning, Musk hinted.
"I'm going to keep driving hard and do more and more missions. I think -- just to give you a sense of scale here -- I think we're going to do more payload from the Space Coast to orbit than all ever rockets combined, this year,” Musk said.
The CEO told News 6 he’s planning cargo missions, crewed missions and Starlink satellite missions, expecting to launch every 10 days.