For the first time since 2011, America launched humans into Earth’s orbit today. Cape Canaveral weather looked a bit iffy at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida but then began to clear up as liftoff time approached.

From left: Astronauts Doug Moore and Bob Behnken (Photo courtesy of NASA’s Twitter page)

At 3:22 p.m., a ten second countdown began. Then the 260-foot SpaceX Dragon ship carrying Missouri native Bob Behnken and fellow astronaut Doug Hurley rocketed into space.

The mission is the first time in U.S. history that a commercial astronaut crew has gone to space and signifies the return of NASA’s space launch program.

“It is absolutely our honor to be part of this huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business. We’ll talk to you from orbit,” Behnken said right before launch.

The flight took about nine minutes to get to space and is scheduled to parallel park at the International Space Station Sunday morning around 9:30 a.m. CST. Behnken and Hurley are expected to be there for about four months.

Behnken, a St. Louis County native, has been on two other space missions. He is also a flight test pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Fellow astronaut and southern Missouri native Mike Hopkins of Richland will be part of a mission later this year to the International Space Station after Behnken returns.

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