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Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket has docked at the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch yesterday (Saturday) marked the first time US astronauts have been sent into orbit from US soil since the Space Shuttle was retired nine years ago. It was also the first time NASA astronauts had been sent into space on a rocket built by a private company.
Prior to docking, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken practised some manual flying when they got within a couple of hundred metres from the ISS. The Crew Dragon craft is capable of docking automatically, but this is a test flight, and NASA wants to ensure that astronauts can successfully dock if there's ever a computer malfunction.
The craft's hatch is now due to open in around two hours, at which point Doug and Bob will be able to join NASA colleague Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been in orbit since April.
Docking confirmed! @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug officially docked to the @Space_Station at 10:16am ET: pic.twitter.com/hCM4UvbwjR
- NASA (@NASA) May 31, 2020
This Demo-2 mission is a way of SpaceX showing that it can safely take astronauts to the International Space Station, and get them back in one piece. It represents the final step on SpaceX's journey to being certified by NASA's Commercial Crew programme for regular flights carrying astronauts to the International Space Centre.
Head on view of the space station from the @SpaceX #CrewDragon less than 150 meters away. pic.twitter.com/sHYR4VuaBD
- Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) May 31, 2020
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said he was 'overcome with emotion' watching his rocket successfully launch after many years of hard work.
The billionaire said: "I'm really quite overcome with emotion on this day. It's kind of hard to talk, frankly. I've spent 18 years working toward this goal, so it's hard to believe that it's happened.
"It is a little hard to process. I think at this point I haven't sorted out my emotions.
"This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilisation on Mars, of life becoming multi-planetary, a base on the moon and expanding beyond Earth."
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