The SpaceX rocket triumphed over an iffy weather forecast as planned Saturday in a historic launch to the International Space Station.
With President Trump watching, the 270-foot Falcon 9 rocket soared into the blue Florida sky at 3:22 p.m. in the first first manned space flight from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.
“Go SpaceX! Go NASA!" engineers cried out as the rocket made what looked like a flawless take off.
Roaring with the power of five jumbo jets, the rocket raced into orbit carrying veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken strapped inside.
With AC/DC’s “Back in Black” playing through their speakers, the duo began the 19-hour journey to the space station that orbits high above Earth.
Trump made a second journey this week to Cape Canaveral for the launch of the rocket built by Elon Musk’s private SpaceX company.
“It’s incredible, the technology, the power," Trump said moments after the launch. “When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible.”
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off into orbit
The president, who watched with Vice President Mike Pence from a breezy rooftop vantage point, said it was “important” to watch the launch even as violent protests over the police killing of George Floyd raged from coast to coast.
Minutes after the lift-off, a crowd of thousands knelt on their knees to honor the memory of Floyd in an afternoon protest outside a Minneapolis police station.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine acknowledged the jarring images as the nation grappled with the protests and the coronavirus pandemic which has now killed 100,000 Americans.
“Maybe there’s an opportunity here for America to maybe pause and look up and see a bright, shining moment of hope ... even in difficult times,” Bridenstine said before launch.
Hurley and Behnken rode to the rocket in a fancy winged Tesla SUV and wore sleek space suits that are a big image boost from previous launches.
Behnken mimicked a hug of his 6-year-old son as the rocket men prepared to be strapped into the capsule.
“Are you going to listen to Mommy and make her life easy?” Hurley asked as he blew kisses.
Just seconds before ignition, Hurley paid tribute to astronaut Alan Shepard, who was on America’s first human space flight in 1961.
“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said.
Thunderstorms were a worry again right up to the launch time. NASA was fretting over the weather not just at Kennedy Space Center, but all the way up the Eastern Seaboard and across the North Atlantic to Ireland.
Wednesday’s countdown was halted at just under 17 minutes because of the threat of lightning.
The space shot was the first one from American soil in eight years. Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, NASA severely limited the number of employees, visitors and journalists allowed inside Kennedy Space Center.
Source: New York Daily News