Marcia Dunn, Associated Press
updated on May 27, 2020 | 4:25 PM
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit has been called off with 16 minutes to go in the countdown because of the danger of lightning.
Liftoff is rescheduled for Saturday.
The spacecraft was set to blast off Wednesday afternoon for the International Space Station, ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight and putting NASA back in the business of launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian rockets to carry astronauts to and from the space station.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. APs earlier story follows below.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) With thunderstorms threatening a delay, two NASA astronauts climbed aboard a SpaceX rocket ship Wednesday for liftoff on a history-making flight that was seen as a giant leap forward for the booming business of commercial space travel.
Space veterans Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were scheduled to ride into orbit aboard the brand-new Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, taking off for the International Space Station at 4:33 p.m. EDT from the same launch pad used during the Apollo moon missions a half-century ago.
Smiling, waving and giving the traditional thumbs-up, the two men said farewell to their families exchanging blown kisses and pantomiming hugs for their young sons from a coronavirus-safe distance before setting out for the pad in a gull-wing Tesla SUV, another product from SpaceXs visionary founder, Elon Musk.
Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrived to watch the liftoff.
The flight would mark the first time a private company sent humans into orbit.
It would also be the first time in nearly a decade that the United States launched astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil. 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.
With 2 1/2 hours to go before liftoff, controllers put the chances of launch at just 40 percent because of thunderstorms at NASAs Kennedy Space Center. Thunder could be heard as the astronauts made their way to the pad, and a tornado warning was issued moments after they climbed into their capsule.
In the event of a postponement, the next launch opportunity would be Saturday.
The preparations took place in the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed an estimated 100,000 Americans.
Were launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. We havent done this really since 2011, so this is a unique moment in time, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
With this launch, he said, everybody can look up and say, Look, the future is so much brighter than the present. And I really hope that this is an inspiration to the world.
Musk, wearing a mask and keeping his distance, chatted with the two NASA astronauts just before they left for the launch pad. The mission would put Musk and SpaceX in the same league as only three countries Russia, the U.S. and China, which sent astronauts into orbit in that order.
What today is about is reigniting the dream of space and getting people fired up about the future, he said in a NASA interview.
A solemn-sounding Musk said he felt his responsibilities most strongly when he saw the astronauts wives and sons just before launch. He said he told them: Weve done everything we can to make sure your dads come back OK.
NASA pushed ahead with the launch despite the viral outbreak but kept the guest list at Kennedy extremely limited and asked spectators to stay at home. Still, beaches and parks along Floridas Space Coast are open again, and hours before the launch, cars and RVs already were lining the causeway in Cape Canaveral.
The space agency also estimated 1.7 million people were watching the launch preparations online during the afternoon.
Among the sightseers was Erin Gatz, who came prepared for both rain and pandemic. Accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, she brought face masks and a small tent to protect against the elements.
She said the children had faint memories of watching in person one of the last shuttle launches almost a decade ago when they were preschoolers.
I wanted them to see the flip side and get to see the next era of space travel, said Gatz, who lives in Deltona, Florida. Its exciting and hopeful.
Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, are both two-time shuttle fliers.
NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to transport astronauts to the space station in a new kind of public-private partnership. Development of SpaceXs Dragon and Boeings Starliner capsules took longer than expected, however. Boeings ship is not expected to fly astronauts into space until early 2021.
Were doing it differently than weve ever done it before, Bridenstine said. Were transforming how we do spaceflight in the future.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
- Space junk slams into International Space Station, damaging a robotic arm - CBS News - June 4th, 2021
- Earth looks spectacular from space: 5 images clicked by astronauts on the Space Station - Firstpost - June 4th, 2021
- Spacewalking cosmonauts will decommission an old space station module early Wednesday. Watch it live! - Space.com - June 4th, 2021
- Cosmonauts Finish Spacewalk to Ready Space Station for New Module - SciTechDaily - June 4th, 2021
- China completes another part of its own space station paving the way for astronauts to live there - CNBC - June 4th, 2021
- Guilford companys medical invention on shipment headed to the International Space Station - WTNH.com - June 4th, 2021
- China's New Space Station Will Be Powered by Ion Propulsion System - Interesting Engineering - June 4th, 2021
- Nelson to speak with Rogozin on the future of the ISS - SpaceNews - June 4th, 2021
- Astronauts share images of Himalayas and Italy taken from space. Seen them yet? - Hindustan Times - June 4th, 2021
- China's New Space Station Is Powered by Ion Thrusters - Futurism - June 4th, 2021
- Space Station May Host Wave of TV Shows and Films - The New York Times - May 27th, 2021
- UltraSight Selected to Conduct a Study Onboard the International Space Station - PRNewswire - May 27th, 2021
- Ever wonder what it's like to walk in space? Astronauts tell all - WAPT Jackson - May 27th, 2021
- You'll Be Able to See the Space Station Again This Week in Idaho - kezj.com - May 27th, 2021
- ISS astronaut snaps supermoon and lunar eclipse from orbit - CNET - May 27th, 2021
- Squid, cotton and 'water bears' among cargo headed to the International Space Station - WTSP.com - May 27th, 2021
- Lunar Eclipse 2021: The Full Moon From The International Space Station - NDTV - May 27th, 2021
- Anson: Cabernet and Merlot 'space vines' take root on earth - Decanter - decanter.com - May 27th, 2021
- Asteroid mining, space tourism and the new space race - Equal Times - May 27th, 2021
- Orbital space tourism poised to take off later this year - SpaceFlight Insider - May 27th, 2021
- Lewis Center selected for NASA program that connects students to International Space Station astronauts - VVdailypress.com - May 24th, 2021
- Discovery adventure TV show to launch winning contestant to the space station - CNBC - May 24th, 2021
- Earth looks like Mars in surprising astronaut photo from the ISS - CNET - May 24th, 2021
- One Night in Bangkok - NASA - May 24th, 2021
- Chinas Ambitious Plans in Space: The Moon, Mars and Beyond - The New York Times - May 24th, 2021
- Acting Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Space Operations Visits Cape Canaveral Space Force Station - SpaceCoastDaily.com - May 24th, 2021
- Triangle-shaped UFO spotted flying past International Space station as viewers claim glowing aircraft is... - The Irish Sun - May 24th, 2021
- International Space Station to play starring role in Top League final - RugbyPass - May 24th, 2021
- Moon & Mars done, Jupiter & Uranus next on the list Chinas racing away in space too - ThePrint - May 24th, 2021
- Who wants to be an astronaut? Discovery Channel contest offers chance to win a trip to space - MassLive.com - May 24th, 2021
- Sea burials: Where space stations, rockets rust in peace - YourStory - May 24th, 2021
- Brownsville ISD students to hear from astronauts aboard the International Space Station - KGBT-TV - May 11th, 2021
- Could the Next Space Station Be a Hotel? - Bloomberg - May 11th, 2021
- NASAs NICER Telescope: Eyes on top of the International Space Station studying Neutron Stars - CW39 - May 11th, 2021
- Review: Base One Is a Compelling but Flawed Space Station Builder - thirdcoastreview.com - May 11th, 2021
- UCLA Engineering In-Flight Conversation with SpaceX Crew 2 aboard the International Space Station - UCLA Samueli School of Engineering Newsroom - May 11th, 2021
- Space station visible from Cayman twice this week - Cayman Compass - May 11th, 2021
- China says its rocket debris landed in the Indian Ocean - CNBC - May 11th, 2021
- Steve Mann: Michael David Winery sends grape juice to the space station - Lodi News-Sentinel - May 11th, 2021
- Can You Survive Skydiving Off the ISS? - Interesting Engineering - May 11th, 2021
- Redwire Delivers the ISS' New Roll-Out Solar Arrays to Boeing - Via Satellite - May 11th, 2021
- Russia wants to build its own space station to replace the ISS, state officials say - Space.com - April 29th, 2021
- First element of Chinese space station ready for liftoff Spaceflight Now - Spaceflight Now - April 29th, 2021
- China is about to start building a space station in orbit - New Scientist News - April 29th, 2021
- International Space Station Cruises Across the Moon, Caught in Sunlight: Watch the Video - Gadgets 360 - April 29th, 2021
- Its Dinner Time on the Space Station. Lobster or Beef Bourguignon? - The New York Times - April 29th, 2021
- Georgia native blasts off to International Space Station aboard SpaceX rocket - WSB Atlanta - April 29th, 2021
- Life aboard the International Space Station - CBS News - April 19th, 2021
- In photos: The Expedition 64 mission to the International Space Station - Space.com - April 19th, 2021
- New International Space Station Crew To Conduct Hundreds Of Space Experiments - WMFE - April 19th, 2021
- SpaceX agrees to steer Starlink internet satellites clear of space station, NASA spacecraft - Space.com - April 17th, 2021
- Boeings Starliner Is Further Delayed Due to ISS Traffic Jam Created by SpaceX - Observer - April 17th, 2021
- NASA Shares Breathtaking Image Of Our Milky Way Galaxy Captured From The International Space Station! - Mashable India - April 17th, 2021
- 1 week away: NASA, SpaceX's Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station - FOX 35 Orlando - April 15th, 2021
- Astronaut Jessica Meir describes her time in space and return to Earth in talk with Caribou students - Bangor Daily News - April 15th, 2021
- Cannabis on the ISS - Boulder Weekly - April 15th, 2021
- Astronauts need a fridge. Engineers are building one that works in zero gravity and upside down. - Purdue News Service - April 15th, 2021
- As International Space Station shows signs of falling apart, Putin approves ambitious plan for Russia to make its own replacement - RT - April 15th, 2021
- 113-year-old Michigan train station to be redeveloped into mixed-use community space - MLive.com - April 15th, 2021
- SpaceX is outfitting its Dragon spacecraft with an observation dome for space tourists - TechCrunch - March 31st, 2021
- Astronaut Mark Vande Hei Expects A 'Surprisingly Calm' Trip To International Space Station - Here And Now - March 31st, 2021
- When to see the International Space Station in Lancashire skies this week - Lancs Live - March 31st, 2021
- Genius 100 Foundation, MISO go live to the International Space Station - Miami's Community Newspapers - March 31st, 2021
- 20 Years Ago: Space Station Mir Reenters Earths Atmosphere and Disintegrates - SciTechDaily - March 31st, 2021
- Space wine: Researchers analyse wine that spent year on ISS - Al Jazeera English - March 31st, 2021
- Space News: Observing lightning from the International Space Station - Lake County News - March 31st, 2021
- Review: Spacebase Startopia Is the Space Station Management Game I Always Wanted - thirdcoastreview.com - March 31st, 2021
- British musician's moon-themed song beamed to International Space Station - Inverness Courier - March 31st, 2021
- International Space Station making an appearance over CNY this weekend - WSYR - March 21st, 2021
- ISS Space Station to be Seen from Earth Next Week ... Weather Permitting | House - DodoFinance - March 21st, 2021
- Heights business helps get cheese to astronauts on the ISS - KHOU.com - March 21st, 2021
- Nano Dimension and L3Harris send 3D printed radiofrequency circuit to the ISS - 3D Printing Industry - March 21st, 2021
- Podcast: Nanoracks' CEO on Commercializing Space - Aviation Week - March 21st, 2021
- NASA Will Map Every Living Thing on the International Space Station - Scientific American - March 11th, 2021
- China and Russia agree to build lunar space station together - Chron - March 11th, 2021
- China and Russia are building a lunar space station together - Insider - March 11th, 2021
- New study from space station looks at human cells infected with salmonella | TheHill - The Hill - March 11th, 2021
- 3D Scanning Tech Developed For Space Station Can Help Feed People On Earth - Forbes - March 11th, 2021
- NASA-SpaceX launch of next International Space Station crew delayed - The Japan Times - March 9th, 2021
- Russia partners with China for lunar space station - The Verge - March 9th, 2021