Trump praises Elon Musk’s historic SpaceX mission as a ‘great inspiration’

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Two American astronauts in a pioneering rocket called Falcon 9 soared above the planet’s deadly chaos Saturday to open up space to private enterprise.

President Trump, who was at Cape Canaveral to watch the majestic late-afternoon launch of the first-ever manned commercial space flight, celebrated the blastoff as a much-needed symbol of inspiration and American achievement in a troubled time.

“Together we will assert America’s rightful heritage as the greatest spacefaring nation on the planet,” he said. “The world has not yet seen the full glory of the American spirit.”

Tesla automaker and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, with an assist from NASA, was behind the historic launch of the Demo-2 mission. It was scrubbed Wednesday because of bad weather but went off without a hitch Saturday afternoon.

“It was incredible,” NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley radioed launch control. “I appreciate all the hard work and thanks for a great ride to space.” He was accompanied by fellow spaceman Robert Behnken for the ride into orbit and the International Space Station.

It was the first manned spaceflight from U.S. soil since 2011.

Until now space had been the province of governments in the U.S., China and Russia. The SpaceX project changed that, and is also key to Trump’s promise to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

The launch came a day after SpaceX’s Starship N4 prototype, a new spacecraft Musk has been developing, blew up on its test stand in Boca Chica, Texas.

“I’m so proud of the people, of NASA, public and private,” Trump said after the launch. “When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible. When you hear that sound — the roar — you can imagine how dangerous it is.”

The Crew Dragon capsule will link up with the International Space Station after about 19 hours on Sunday as it orbits 250 miles above the surface of the earth. Though the capsule is designed to fly automatically, the two astronauts have been trained to steer it manually and will try that out prior to docking at the station.

NASA says it won’t decide how long Hurley and Behnken stay at the station until they get there, and that it could be several weeks, even months. They will run unspecified experiments and may try a spacewalk. They did not carry any special cargo.

When Hurley flew on the last shuttle mission in 2011, the crew carried a flag to ISS. He left it there with word that no one should bring it back to Earth until the next time a manned rocket launched from Florida. When Behnken and Hurley arrive at the station, they will “capture the flag” and bring it back home.

Musk started SpaceX in 2002 to provide cheaper space travel and to realize his long-held dream of someday sending humans to Mars and living there.

“This is the most hands-off NASA has ever been and it’s been difficult for them to step back,” Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told The Post. “But a lot is riding on the privatization of the space program.”

Musk’s success means that NASA won’t have to concern itself with mundane low-orbit space travel and can focus on “gearing up for another trip to the moon and beyond,” McDowell said. It also ends America’s dependence on Russian rockets as its sole means of getting to the space station since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Musk’s brand was everywhere at Cape Canaveral Saturday, not just on his Crew Dragon capsule.

Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, were driven to the famous Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in a Tesla, showing off Bond-esque black and white spacesuits that were years in the making.

Jose Fernandez, a Hollywood costume designer who worked on “Batman v. Superman,” “The Avengers” and X-Men sequel “X2,” created the prototype for the suits.

“I think this is such a great inspiration for our country,” Trump said after blastoff. “Our country is doing well. … We suffered something that was terrible. It should have never happened,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be here today,” Trump said.

The president also used the occasion to plead for national unity after days of violent demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota police custody.

“We are working toward a more just society, but that means building up, not tearing down,” he said.

“Moments ago, as we witnessed the launch of two great American astronauts into space, we were filled with the sense of pride and unity that brings us together as Americans.

“When Americans are united there is nothing we cannot do.”

Additional reporting by Mary Kay Linge


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