SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to International Space Station
SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to International Space Station

Four astronauts were effectively launched on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience to the International Space Station on Sunday, the first of what the United States expects will be many routine missions following a successful test flight in late spring.

Three Americans namely Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi blasted off at 7:27 pm Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, thus ending almost ten years of international reliance on Russia for rides on its Soyuz rockets.

US President-elect Joe Biden hailed the launch on Twitter as a "testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination," while President Donald Trump called it "great."  Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the launch with his wife Karen, called it a "new era in human space exploration in America."

The Pences joined NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and his wife Michelle to watch the launch, clapping as the rocket lifted off. The capsule successfully separated from the second stage of the rocket and, according to a SpaceX team member speaking over radio, had achieved "nominal orbit insertion."

The team will dock at their destination at around 11:00 pm Monday night (0400 GMT Tuesday), joining two Russians and one American on board the station, and stay for six months. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, has gone ahead its much older rival Boeing, whose program has floundered after a failed test of its uncrewed Starliner last year. 

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