You can count Vice President Mike Pence among the many people impressed and inspired by the maiden mission of SpaceX's new astronaut taxi.
The Crew Dragon capsule launched Saturday (March 2) on an uncrewed shakeout flight to the International Space Station (ISS), arriving at the orbiting lab 27 hours later. These historic events had an impact on Pence, who also chairs the National Space Council.
"This was a great week. It was inspiring to see the launch. It was actually more inspiring to see the docking," Pence said today (March 6) in a conversation with station crewmembers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, who joined from their orbital home via video link.
"It was a great moment," Pence added, congratulating both astronauts on their role in it. "People around the nation and, frankly, around the world watched with great interest."
Pence spoke from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He was flanked by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who likewise lauded Demo-1's success so far. (The capsule still needs to ace its return to Earth, which will take place Friday morning, March 8.)
"It's a new era in human spaceflight," Bridenstine said.
McClain and Saint-Jacques echoed that sentiment, and those words; both astronauts referred to the dawn of a "new era."
Pence also asked McClain about another historic moment coming up this month — her planned March 29 spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch, which will be the space agency's first all-female extravehicular activity (EVA).
Koch didn't embrace the offered spotlight, simply saying that she and her colleagues have been prepping for three late-March EVAs, which will involve multiple members of the space station crew.
SpaceX has been developing Crew Dragon under a $2.6 billion deal with NASA, which wants to end its crew-carrying dependency on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft. This reliance has been in effect for nearly eight years, since NASA's space shuttle fleet was grounded in July 2011.
The agency signed a similar contract, this one worth $4.2 billion, with Boeing, which is building a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner. Starliner will launch on its version of Demo-1 — an uncrewed test flight to the ISS — no earlier than April.
If all goes according to plan, SpaceX will launch astronauts to the ISS for the first time in July, on another test flight called Demo-2. Starliner could do the same in August. Operational, contracted missions to the orbiting lab will commence sometime thereafter.
"The best is yet to come," Pence said.
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Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.