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NASA, SpaceX lift off on historic mission

NASA astronauts have not launched to space from U.S. soil in nearly 10 years.

The second try was a charm as SpaceX and NASA made history at 3:22 p.m. Saturday. This was the first time that Americans will be launched into space from U.S. soil since July 2011. That's when the Space Shuttle program ended. For the last nine years, Astronauts have had to hitch a ride with the Russians.

This is also the first time that a private venture will take humans into Earth's orbit. Only the governments of the U.S., Russia and China have done it before now.

The launch opened one more door toward eventually making space accessible to civilians.

Watch as Wednesday's mission was scrubbed

For NASA, it's a significant step toward the Artemis program which will return humans to the Moon in the next few years and, finally, to Mars.

What is SpaceX?

Space X is short for Space Exploration Technologies. It was founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2002. Unlike the government-run NASA, SpaceX is a private company.

What is purpose of the mission?

It's called the Demo-2 mission. It's the final flight test for Space X to determine the full operational capabilities of its spacecraft, to successfully send humans into space and to dock with the International Space Station.

What is the spacecraft?

The rocket used on this mission is called the Falcon 9. The astronauts will be riding in the Crew Dragon capsule atop the rocket.

The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket. What makes it unique is that the first stage is capable of returning to Earth and landing vertically. This allows it to be used again for future flights.

The Crew Dragon for this mission is designed to spend up to 110 days in space. The operational version will be capable of 210 days in orbit.

Who are the astronauts?

While its SpaceX that's running the mission, NASA is providing the astronauts.

Robert L. Behnken is the joint operations commander for the mission. He was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He is a veteran of two space shuttle flights, having spent more than 29 days in space.

Douglas Hurley will be the spacecraft commander. He was a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is also a space veteran. He piloted the space shuttle twice, including the program's final mission. 

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What time is liftoff?

3:22 p.m., EDT Saturday, May 30.

What happens after liftoff?

The Crew Dragon will be pushed into orbit at 17,000 mph. The crew will rendezvous with the ISS. Docking is done automatically, but the crew can take over if they need to.

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