KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA's first crewed mission of 2023 successfully lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Thursday morning and is now on its way to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavor, just after 12:30 a.m. EST, illuminating the night sky as it raced into orbit.
"Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for another history-making mission to the International Space Station! The Commercial Crew Program is proof American ingenuity and leadership in space benefits all of humanity – through groundbreaking science, innovative technology, and newfound partnership," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Crew-6 will be busy aboard the International Space Station, conducting over 200 experiments that will help us to prepare for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, as well as improve life here on Earth. We look forward to seeing all that they accomplish."
Dragon will now dock autonomously to the space-facing port of the ISS' Harmony module around 1:17 a.m. EST on Friday.
Thursday morning's launch was the second attempt at getting the rocket and astronauts into orbit. The mission was initially slated to blast off into space early Monday morning but was scrubbed about two minutes before launch after a ground system issue was discovered.
"I'm proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams' focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe," Nelson said after the scrub on Monday. "Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavor and, as always, we will fly when we are ready."
The goal of SpaceX Crew-6
SpaceX Crew-6 is the sixth operational human spaceflight mission to the International Space Station. NASA said the crew would rotate out with the astronauts of NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 mission and spend up to six months on the ISS conducting scientific research.
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Stephen Brown, Warren "Woody" Hoburg, Sultan Al Neyadi and Andrey Fedyaev will carry out more than 200 science experiments on the ISS, according to SpaceX.
Their investigations will range from continuing combustion research to testing tissue chips or small devices that imitate the functions of human organs to collecting samples from outside the ISS to see whether the spacecraft releases microorganisms into space.