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.
- New crew will launch to the International Space Station in October - CNN - July 5th, 2020
- Astronauts are taking a spacewalk outside their space station today. Watch it live! - Space.com - July 5th, 2020
- Looked Like I Was Walking Into A Space Station: Thrill-Seekers In New Jersey Flock To Six Flags Great Adventures Reopening - CBS Philly - July 5th, 2020
- Op-ed | On the verge of a new era for space exploration? Assessing the impact of the ongoing crisis - SpaceNews - July 5th, 2020
- How will astronauts poop on the moon? New NASA challenge aims to flush this mystery - Space.com - July 5th, 2020
- Its like being on a space station: Aftab Shivdasani on shooting amid coronavirus pandemic - The Indian Express - July 5th, 2020
- Are we making spacecraft too autonomous? - MIT Technology Review - July 5th, 2020
- SpaceX Vs Blue Origin: Who Wins The Space Race - Analytics India Magazine - July 5th, 2020
- Pacific Northwest Bathed in Green and White - nasa.gov - July 5th, 2020
- Spuds and space: NASA and Idaho have a long history - East Idaho News - July 5th, 2020
- Balloon trips to the edge of space by 2021 - CNN - July 5th, 2020
- SpaceX is launching an advanced GPS satellite for the US Space Force today. Here's how to watch. - Space.com - July 5th, 2020
- Boeing shifts its team leaders for space station and Starliner space programs - GeekWire - June 20th, 2020
- The International Space Station is getting a new toilet this year - Space.com - June 20th, 2020
- Astronauts: Falcon 9 rocket was totally different ride than the space shuttle - WITI FOX 6 Milwaukee - June 20th, 2020
- Astronauts and NASA pay homage to Juneteenth - Space.com - June 20th, 2020
- Green glow seen in the atmosphere of Mars, similar to Earth's from space station - Firstpost - June 20th, 2020
- Astronaut and Maine Native Jessica Meir Talks About Experience in Space - NECN - June 20th, 2020
- They Want to Sell Balloon Rides 19 Miles Up. Havent We Heard This Before? - The New York Times - June 20th, 2020
- Students chat with the ISS from their homes - Brentsville District High - June 20th, 2020
- You Can Make Money in Space on Earth - DailyWealth - June 20th, 2020
- What is the 'zero gravity' that people experience in the vomit comet or space flight? - The Conversation US - June 20th, 2020
- Cosmic 'Lighthouses' to Help Space Travellers Find Ways to Moon, Mars - The Weather Channel - June 20th, 2020
- SpaceX is building a floating, superheavy-class spaceport in the Gulf of Mexico - Houston Chronicle - June 20th, 2020
- What Does it Mean to Be a Space Architect? - Universe Today - June 20th, 2020
- Whatever happened to reforming space traffic management? - Politico - June 20th, 2020
- In photos: The Expedition 63 mission to the International Space Station - Space.com - May 27th, 2020
- NASA chief "all in" for Tom Cruise to film on space station - Herald-Whig - May 27th, 2020
- Look up: International Space Station visible above Thunder Bay in coming weeks - CBC.ca - May 27th, 2020
- International Space Station visible over Devon and Cornwall tonight - Plymouth Live - May 27th, 2020
- Here's how to see the International Space Station passing over Bristol this weekend - Bristol Live - May 27th, 2020
- You can view the International Space Station from Vancouver tonight - Vancouver Is Awesome - May 27th, 2020
- The next SpaceX launch will be the company's first with people on board - CNBC - May 18th, 2020
- Timetable for spotting the International Space Station as it passes over the UK and nine-year-old Lottie from Newbury takes her first cosmic... - May 18th, 2020
- International Space Station visible in orbit over the UK until the beginning of June - Newbury Weekly News Group - May 18th, 2020
- Salad could be grown on Mars, scientists say - The Independent - May 18th, 2020
- How and when to see the International Space Station in the sky from where you live - Hillingdon Times - May 18th, 2020
- International Space Station tracker: how to see the ISS fly over Scotland in May - The Scotsman - May 18th, 2020
- MB&F and LEpe 1839's Latest Clock is a Horological Space Station - HYPEBEAST - May 18th, 2020
- space station | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica - May 8th, 2020
- International Space Station - Wikipedia - May 8th, 2020
- Astronaut offers insights on coronavirus from space station - Community Impact Newspaper - May 8th, 2020
- Tom Cruise Working With NASA To Film Aboard The International Space Station - WLEN-FM - May 8th, 2020
- Digital Space Solution Market to Witness Astonishing Growth With The SpaceStation, SpaceDigital, Mediaspace Solutions, Sajha Media Space, Nine... - May 8th, 2020
- Astronaut Christina Koch on making space history and how to survive isolation - The Verge - May 8th, 2020
- China plans to have space station by 2022 - The Canberra Times - May 6th, 2020
- How long will the 1st astronauts to ride SpaceX's Crew Dragon be in space? No one knows exactly (yet). - Space.com - May 6th, 2020
- China to debut new version of powerful Long March 5 rocket this week - Spaceflight Now - May 4th, 2020
- SpaceX Moon Contract Could Be Worth $7 Billion -- Or Nothing - The Motley Fool - May 4th, 2020
- An astronaut spotted SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites from the International Space Station - CNBC - April 21st, 2020
- Astronauts Return to Earth From International Space Station - EcoWatch - April 21st, 2020
- NASA to launch astronauts to space station from US soil for the first time in a decade - WESTERNMASSNEWS.com - April 21st, 2020
- NASA astronaut, UCSD grad to return to earth from space station - - KUSI - April 21st, 2020
- Amazing shots of International Space Station over Swindon (and here's when you can see it next) - Swindon Advertiser - April 21st, 2020
- UFO Spotted On NASA Live Stream Video Outside The International Space Station Is Absolutely Real - BroBible - April 21st, 2020
- Three amember Space Station Crew Return to Earth - En Tempo.co - April 21st, 2020
- How engineers are operating space missions from their homes - The Verge - April 21st, 2020
- Soyuz launches new crew to the International Space Station - SpaceNews - April 9th, 2020
- Boeing intends to reattempt Starliner test flight to space station - CBS News - April 9th, 2020
- Great stargazing night ahead, when to see the International Space Station pass over Michigan - MLive.com - April 9th, 2020
- How to see the International Space Station in the Colorado Springs area on Tuesday and Wednesday - Colorado Springs Gazette - April 9th, 2020
- China's new crew spacecraft looks like it could dock with the International Space Station - Space.com - March 31st, 2020
- In Photos: The Expedition 62 mission to the International Space Station - Space.com - March 31st, 2020
- Five MIT payloads deployed on the International Space Station - Space Daily - March 31st, 2020
- NASA tasks SpaceX with sending cargo and supplies to future lunar space station - The Verge - March 31st, 2020
- 'I'm in awe': NASA astronaut salutes coronavirus-fighting doctors and nurses from orbit - Space.com - March 31st, 2020
- All traditions are scrapped: Keeping coronavirus off the ISS - Digital Trends - March 31st, 2020
- When you can see the International Space Station flying in the night sky over Somerset this weekend - Somerset Live - March 31st, 2020
- Watch this space, coronavirus weather & penguin-spotting - EURACTIV - March 31st, 2020
- Space holiday, anyone? Space X to send tourists to International Space Station - The Star Online - March 31st, 2020
- US launches advanced satellite in 1st Space Force national security mission - Space.com - March 31st, 2020
- Sunlit Peaks in the Himalayas - NASA - March 31st, 2020
- Need More Space At Home? Try These Astronomy Livestreams - Forbes - March 31st, 2020
- Astronaut tips to survive lockdown: talk, teamwork, treats - Reuters - March 31st, 2020
- G2 Esports defeats Spacestation Gaming to win RLCS NA Regionals - Daily Esports - March 31st, 2020
- While we were stockpiling, here's what astronauts were up to in space last week - CNN - March 26th, 2020
- When you can see the International Space Station flying over Greater Manchester over the next week - Manchester Evening News - March 26th, 2020
- How to see the International Space Station over Nottingham tonight - West Bridgford Wire - March 26th, 2020
- Welcome to the future: 11 ideas that went from science fiction to reality - Space.com - March 26th, 2020
- The Coronavirus Is Starting To Have A Serious Impact On The Space Industry - Forbes - March 26th, 2020