Today marks the return of human spaceflight from United States soil

The presence of visiting dignitaries, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and billionaire SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk added to the high-pressure mood at the Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX remains on track for an inaugural NASA astronaut launch that will arguably be the most important single mission in the company's history, although Florida's summer weather continues to conspire to delay it.

And while SpaceX regularly puts satellites into orbit, this is the first time it will have taken people above the atmosphere.

NASA has emphasized the superior safety of Crew Dragon, and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, over the shuttle.

Saturday at 3:22 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. are the pre-selected backup dates for the mission known as Crew Dragon Demo-2.

In ordinary times, the beaches and roads along Florida's Space Coast would be packed with hundreds of thousands of spectators, eager to witness the first astronaut launch from Florida in nine years. After considering the proposals, NASA chose the cheapest options and provided SpaceX $ 2.6 billion for the further development of the ship. With the partnership, NASA has been able to dedicate more funding toward science and research of the cosmos, while staying focused on the agency's mission to have a bigger human presence in space and eventually return to the moon within the decade.

In 2010, NASA began looking for private contractors to deliver the crew to the ISS under the CCDev program. The astronauts also have their own touch-screen monitors, nearly identical to the monitors inside the vehicles made by SpaceX's sister company, Tesla.

"For the first time since 2011, we are sending American astronauts back to space, on an American rocket, from American soil". The interior is dominated by white, more subtle lighting.

The spacecraft is autonomously capable of docking, but the astronauts can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.

It looks entirely different to the enormous space shuttles, huge winged vehicles that carried astronauts into space from United States soil from 1981 to 2011. The road to this upcoming launch wasn't easy, as the company was set behind after a capsule exploded during a test in April 2019.

Robert Behnken during a test run of the Crew Dragon ahead of the launch. Hurley was actually the pilot on that very last shuttle outing.

Two years later, NASA ordered the next step: to transport its astronauts there, starting in 2017, by adapting the Dragon capsule.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled to fly in the Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, a football field-sized compendium of segments and modules orbiting around Earth.

Heavily dependent on Atlantic Ocean weather conditions, skies (and seas) thankfully appear to be clearing up on the home stretch to Crew Dragon's Demo-2 astronaut debut.

Nonetheless, after this mission is completed, SpaceX's Crew Dragon, powered by the Falcon 9 rocket, will carry 4 astronauts to the ISS, including US astronauts Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. "It was a great practice, and we'll do it again on Saturday", Hurley said just before climbing out of the capsule.

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