17 incredible photos from SpaceX's historic mission to send NASA astronauts to the space station

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NASA astronaut Doug Hurley shows his son, Jack, around Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center on May 26, 2020.

Sam Friedman/SpaceX

SpaceX launched NASA astronauts into space for the first time on Saturday — the company's first human passengers and the first time people have ever flown a commercially developed spaceship.

This mission was the product of NASA's Commercial Crew program, a partnership between the space agency and two private companies (Boeing is the other) to build spaceships that can ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It was the first time the US  launch its own astronauts from American soil since 2011.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely arrived at the space station on Sunday morning.

"It's great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business," Hurley said at a press briefing from the ISS on Monday. "We're just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex."

These are the best photos from the mission so far. 

Hurley and Behnken pulled up to the launch site for their first launch attempt on Wednesday in a Tesla. Hurley's wife, Karen Nyberg (who is also an astronaut), and their son waved to him from outside the car window.

Karen Nyberg and son share a moment with Doug Hurley before he boards to the SpaceX Demo-2 launch at the Kennedy Space Center on May 27, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Saul Martinez/Getty Images

The astronaut's families exchanged distanced air hugs before the two men boarded the spaceship.

Hurley and Behnken say goodbye to their families and give distant "hugs," May 27, 2020.


Vice President Mike Pence joined Elon Musk, along with the astronauts and their families, at the Kennedy Space Center prior to the launch.

Elon Musk (right), Vice President Mike Pence, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and the families of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley (left) talk ahead of launch at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 27, 2020.

Joe Skipper/Reuters

Hurley and Behnken were all smiles leading up to the launch — a mission they'd been training for for years.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley board the elevator at launch pad 39A, May 27, 2020.

NASA via Youtube

Behnken and Hurley took off from Launch Complex 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX signed an agreement with NASA in 2014 to use the launch complex for the next 20 years.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken head to Launch Complex 39A before the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 27, 2020.

Joe Skipper/Reuters

SpaceX and NASA both offered live video coverage of the mission. NASA TV, the agency's livestreaming channel, is still broadcasting coverage.

Bob Behnken gives a thumbs up to the camera before climbing onboard the Crew Dragon, May 27, 2020.

NASA via Youtube

You can watch here.

Cameras inside the Crew Dragon spaceship showed Behnken and Hurley strapped into their seats, preparing for launch. The capsule is controlled via touchscreen.

Behnken and Hurley are strapped into their seats on the Crew Dragon, May 27, 2020.

NASA via Youtube

The touchscreen took "a little more time to get used to that way of flying a vehicle, certainly, but it wasn't anything that became completely objectionable or was extremely difficult to do," Hurley said during a news conference on May 20.

SpaceX's new spacesuits have touchscreen-compatible gloves and were designed to plug into the capsule's seats.

But storm clouds gathered around the launch pad on Wednesday, and just 17 minutes before the scheduled liftoff, NASA engineers decided to scrub the launch.

A screen showing the countdown clock is seen with SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft in the background as launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center was scrubbed, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. May 27, 2020.

Steve Nesius/Reuters

Weather conditions, including thunderstorm clouds and a threat of lightning strikes, threatened the safety of the vehicle and astronauts inside. The timing of the launch couldn't be changed, since the rocket must lift off 35 minutes after fueling begins and align perfectly with the location of the space station to minimize fuel use.

On Saturday, Behnken and Hurley got ready once again, strapping into the Crew Dragon.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley wait for launch inside the Crew Dragon spaceship, May 30, 2020.

Screenshot/NASA TV

Approximately 300,000 people gathered nearby to watch the historic launch.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. May 30, 2020.

Scott Audette/Reuters

Space.com estimated that about 150,000 people gathered to watch, and Florida Today estimated that the crowd on Saturday was double that from Wednesday.

But the full mission would not be declared a success until NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley reached orbit, about 12 minutes after liftoff.

Maxar's WorldView-1 satellite captured an image of the launch pad at 3:18 p.m. ET, four minutes before launch.

Maxar Technologies

Blastoff came at 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, later named "Endeavor" in an ode to the final space shuttle, flew atop one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets.

SpaceX's Demo-2 mission, launched with a Falcon 9 rocket, lifts off with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley inside a Crew Dragon spaceship, May 30, 2020.

Tony Gray and Tim Powers/NASA

That was the start of their 19-hour flight to the space station.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft launches with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, May 30, 2020

SpaceX via Getty Images

Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, celebrated the success.

Elon Musk cheers after the launch of astronauts on the Demo-2 mission, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 30, 2020.

Steve Nesius/Reuters

After 19 hours of flying through space, the Crew Dragon approached the ISS.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship "Endeavour" just before docking to the International Space Station on May 31, 2020.

SpaceX/NASA via YouTube

The ISS's robotic arm connected with the ship at 10:16 a.m. ET, while flying over northern China and Mongolia.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) approaches the International Space Station. In the foreground is the robotic arm attached to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory module.


After a roughly two-hour hatch-opening procedure, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley entered the ISS.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley float into the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, after riding SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship to the orbiting laboratory.


"It's been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station," Hurley said shortly after docking. "We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated."

Behnken and Hurley's mission isn't over yet, though — they'll now spend one to four months on the International Space Station, then return to Earth on the Crew Dragon.

Dave Mosher and Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed reporting.

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