Biden and Trump congratulate NASA and SpaceX on historic launch

Scale model of SpaceX capsule
(Image credit: Gregg Newton/AFP/Getty Images)

SpaceX launched four astronauts into space Sunday night, marking a first for NASA and private space travel. The four astronauts — Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Victor Glover of NASA, plus Japan's Soichi Noguchi — are the second crew sent to the International Space Station from U.S. soil since NASA's space shuttles were retired in 2011, following a test flight earlier this year, and the first to travel there for a full tour aboard a privately built spacecraft certified by NASA for human spaceflight. Both President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden tweeted their congratulations after the successful launch.

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The astronauts are scheduled to arrive Monday night at the ISS, which is currently celebrating 20 years of continuous human inhabitation. And this SpaceX launch was a long time in the making.

"NASA first entrusted the private sector to fly cargo and supplies to the space station in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration, awarding contracts to SpaceX and then Orbital Sciences," The Washington Post reports. "Allowing the private sector to fly missions was a controversial decision, and many critics at the time said it was unthinkable that NASA would allow the private sector to fly astronauts. But that changed under the Obama administration, which awarded 'commercial crew program' contracts to SpaceX and Boeing, worth $6.8 billion combined, to build spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the station." Read more of the history, successes and failures, at The Washington Post.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.