SpaceX lift-off marks landmark mission for Nasa

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CAPE CANAVERAL: SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched two Americans into orbit from Florida on Saturday in a landmark mission marking the first spaceflight of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) astronauts from US soil in nine years.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre at 3.22pm Saturday (3.22am yesterday, Singapore time). Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken successfully docked the newly designed Crew Dragon capsule with the International Space Station at 10.16pm yesterday (Singapore time).


Just before lift-off, Mr Hurley said: "SpaceX, we're go for launch. Let's light this candle," paraphrasing the famous comment uttered on the launch pad in 1961 by the first American flown into space Alan Shepard.

Minutes after launch, the first-stage booster rocket of the Falcon 9 separated from the upper second-stage rocket and flew itself back to Earth to descend safely onto a landing platform floating in the Atlantic.

High above the earth, the Crew Dragon jettisoned moments later from the second-stage rocket, sending the capsule on its way to the space station.

The exhilarating spectacle of the rocket soaring flawlessly into the heavens came as a welcome triumph for a nation gripped by racially-charged civil unrest as well as ongoing fear and economic upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Falcon 9 took off from the same launch pad used by Nasa's final space shuttle flight, piloted by Mr Hurley, in 2011. - REUTERS