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SpaceX's Crew Dragon successfully reached the International Space Station at 7:16 a.m. PT Sunday, delivering NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the first US spaceflight to make the journey in nine years. They boarded the ISS at 10:22 a.m. PT.
The historic event was put on hold last week when weather scrubbed NASA and SpaceX's first attempt to launch astronauts to the ISS. The second attempt on Saturday got off the ground in spectacular, fiery fashion, propelling the astronauts into low Earth orbit. A series of rocket burns over the next 19 hours lifted Crew Dragon to the space station, and it docked 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
The Crew Dragon approached the ISS slowly at less than a meter per second under automatic guidance, releasing puffs of gas to control its orientation and movement before docking and connecting power. You can see the event unfold on NASA's live video stream. After connecting communications, performing tests and pressurizing the vestibule area on the ISS where the Crew Dragon connected, the astronauts climbed out of the SpaceX craft and onto the space station for a welcome ceremony.
We've rounded up everything you need to know about Demo-2, including how to watch the Crew Dragon docking and astronaut arrival at the ISS, what the mission is all about and the various livestreams you can tune in to if you want to follow along.
What is Demo-2?
Demo-2 is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which involves two commercial spaceflight companies, SpaceX and
, building and launching crew capsules designed to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
SpaceX has a history of cargo and payload launches, but this was the company's first time sending humans off this rock.
When: SpaceX's Crew Dragon successfully launched on Saturday, May 30 at 12:22 p.m. PT. The ISS docking procedure began at 7:16 a.m. PT on Sunday as the capsule and space station orbited above Mongolia and China. At 10:22 a.m. PT, Behnken and Hurley boarded the ISS.
Where: The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule blasted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The historic launch pad has previously hosted Apollo and space shuttle missions. The capsule is currently in orbit during a 19-hour flight to meet up with the ISS.
Why: NASA's Commercial Crew Program is aimed at ending the US reliance on Russian spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to the ISS. NASA has been buying seats on Soyuz capsules since the end of the shuttle program.
Scenes of SpaceX launching NASA astronauts into orbit, moment by moment
This is also part of a broader NASA push for commercial partnerships. "By encouraging industry to provide human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can expand its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions," the space agency said.
The spacecraft: The SpaceX Crew Dragon is the human transportation version of the Dragon 2 capsule that has been used to carry cargo to the ISS. Only two astronauts are on board for Demo-2, but the capsule can be configured to carry up to seven passengers.
The goal: If SpaceX passes muster during Demo-2, then NASA will certify Crew Dragon for regular flights back and forth to the ISS. The space agency is already looking ahead to this outcome and has assigned astronauts to the first Crew Dragon operational mission, which could launch before the end of the year if all goes well.
Once Behnken and Hurley boarded the ISS, they were greeted with the traditional hug gauntlet by the current ISS crew of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
"For the first time in 9 years, we have now launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I'm so proud of the NASA and SpaceX team for making this moment possible," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted after the launch on Saturday.
Meet the NASA astronauts
Behnken and Hurley entered preflight quarantine on May 13. Prelaunch quarantines were already standard procedure prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but NASA will add some extra steps to the process. "Hurley and Behnken, as well as those in direct, close contact with the crew will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution," NASA said in a statement in May.
Bob Behnken: NASA selected Behnken, an experienced Air Force pilot, as an astronaut in 2000. He last visited space on a shuttle mission in 2010. He has spent 708 hours in space, with 37 of those taken up by spacewalks.
Doug Hurley:Hurley, a retired Marine, was also selected as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two space missions, he was last in orbit in 2011 on NASA's final shuttle mission. That adds some poetry to Hurley's assignment to Demo-2. He was one of the last astronauts to launch from US soil and will be one of the first to do it again.
NASA has yet to decide exactly how long Behnken and Hurley will remain on the ISS. "They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew," said NASA. The astronauts will return on Crew Dragon and splash down in the Atlantic where they will be greeted by a SpaceX recovery vessel.
May 30 marked a major milestone in space history. It's not just about the patriotic overtones of launching American astronauts from American soil using an American rocket.
SpaceX and NASA are set to pick up a dropped thread in human spaceflight, filling the void left by the retirement of the space shuttles. We are pretty good at sending robotic explorers to far-flung places in the solar system, but the stakes are always higher when human lives are involved. So far, so good.
Space cheese and other weird items we've sent into orbit