NASA and SpaceX launch four astronauts into space for historic ISS mission

Space giants NASA and SpaceX have launched four astronauts into space for a historic International Space Station (ISS) mission.

It marks NASA's first full-fledged mission using a privately-owned spacecraft having teamed up with tech billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX.

The Crew Dragon capsule launched at 12.27am UK time from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Astronaut Mike Hopkins said around an hour after liftoff: "That was one heck of a ride. There was lots of smiles."

The vessel will take over a day to arrive at the station, which orbits around 250 miles above Earth.

It is planned that the Crew Dragon will dock at the ISS at around 11pm eastern time on Monday.

Musk did not watch the liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center launch control room as usual, after the billionaire said he "most likely" has a moderate case of the coronavirus.

The Resilience crew includes commander Mike Hopkins and two fellow NASA astronauts, mission pilot Victor Glover and
physicist Shannon Walker.

They are joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, making his third trip to space after previously flying on the US shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.

The 27-hour ride to the space station was originally scheduled to begin on Saturday.

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But the launch was postponed for a day due to forecasts of gusty winds – remnants of Tropical Storm Eta – that would have made a return landing for the Falcon 9's reusable booster stage difficult, NASA officials said.

NASA is calling the flight its first "operational" mission for a rocket and crew-vehicle system that was 10 years in the making.

It represents a new era of commercially developed spacecraft – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – for sending Americans into orbit.

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"This is the culmination of years of work and effort from a lot of people, and a lot of time," Benji Reed, SpaceX senior director of human space flight programs, told reporters on Friday.

"We have built what I would call one of the safest launch vehicles and spacecraft ever."

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