CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – President Donald Trump celebrated on Saturday the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, marveling at the power of the rocket ship and the danger faced by its passengers as they soared into the stratosphere and provided a moment of triumph as the country raged and mourned.
The successful launch provided the president a moment to relish during what has been a difficult week with protests breaking out in several American cities over the death of a black man, George Floyd, while he was in police custody, and the countryâ€™s death toll from the coronavirus surpassing 100,000.
â€œThat was a beautiful sight to see and I hope you all enjoyed it,â€ Trump said shortly after the rocket ship designed and built by Elon Muskâ€™s SpaceX company lifted off for a trip to the International Space Station.
For Trump, the second time was the charm. He also flew to the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday before the launch was postponed at the last minute because of bad weather.
â€œWhen you hear that sound and you hear all of that roar, you can imagine how dangerous it is,â€ Trump said. â€œWhen you feel the shake – and weâ€™re very far away – but when you feel the shake over here, itâ€™s pretty amazing. Beautiful sight. A beautiful ship, too.â€
Asked why he felt it was important to be in Florida for the launch, given all that is going on in the country, Trump said the launch was a â€œgreat inspiration” for the country.
â€œWe suffered something that was terrible, it should have never happened. And thatâ€™s one of the reasons I wanted to be here today. I thought it was so important to be here today,” Trump said. â€œAnd I think any one of you would say, that was an inspiration to see what we just saw.â€
Trump visited the launch control center to congratulate those involved and spoke with Musk, who wore a shirt emblazoned with the launchâ€™s logo. Under Trump, NASA has provided companies with research and development funds to help build their own spacecraft. Ultimately, NASA hopes to rely in part on its commercial partners as it works to send astronauts back to the moon in the next few years, and on to Mars in the 2030s.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.