President Trump on Saturday said the SpaceX launch was an “inspiration for our country,” just moments after its rocket sent astronauts into space from American soil for the first time since 2011.
SpaceX launched NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on their historic Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is the first time a private company, rather than a national government, has sent astronauts into orbit.
Hurley and Behnken blasted off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic launch pad 39A, which was also used for the Apollo and space shuttle programs, at 3:22 p.m. ET Saturday.
The president watched the launch from the rooftop observation deck of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“I think this is an inspiration for our country. We’re going to do fantastically well,” Trump said Saturday, adding that the country has “suffered something terrible” from coronavirus.
“This should have never happened,” Trump continued. “One of the reasons I wanted to be here today, and I think any one of you would say, that was an inspiration to see right now.”
The president went on to say that it was “great” to have “the whole program back.”
“It’s just the beginning… many more things to come,” Trump said, pointing to the launch of the Space Force. “One of the things we’ve done is create the Space Force … We have a major branch of the military, joint chiefs of staff, full honors, it’s called the Space Force.”
The president went on to tout the new military branch, noting: “I think space will be one of the most important things we’ve ever done.”
The president spoke to the astronauts prior to the launch, and told reporters that he said “God bless you.”
“They have a lot of courage,” Trump said. “Would you do that?”
Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also congratulated NASA, SpaceX and “all the hardworking women and men who made today a victory for American innovation and persistence.”
Biden claimed credit for the launch, saying the mission “represents the culmination of work begun years ago, and which President Obama and I fought hard to ensure would become a reality.”
“We planted the seeds of today’s success during the 2009 Recovery Act, which according to NASA, has saved taxpayers up to $30 billion and invigorated an aerospace industry in Florida that accounts for more than 130,000 jobs in the state,” the former vice president said.
He added: “As president, I look forward to advancing America’s commitment to pursuing space exploration and unlocking scientific discoveries that will inspire a new generation of dreamers to gaze up at the sky and imagine all that our future may hold.”
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this report.