Rice University students celebrate historic SpaceX launch

Rice University students watched closely Sunday as NASA made its first operational SpaceX Dragon launch from Florida.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Sunday evening.

The historic “first operational” mission by NASA and SpaceX has four members embarking on a 27-hour ride to the International Space Station. There, they will spend six months working on experiments. The astronauts are named Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Nogushi. Walker graduated from Rice University in 1987 with a degree in physics.

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On Sunday, students and staff members at Rice held a “socially distant” watch party for the launch.

“We’re celebrating the scientific event,” said Rice Professor Luis Duno-Gottberg. “Also, we’re celebrating the success of one of our students.”

In an interview before launch, Walker expressed her excitement for the six month mission.

“I’ve been in the astronaut office for a long time,” said Walker. “I’ve had one other flight. I didn’t launch out of Florida for that flight. I’m just so happy to be here, in Florida, getting ready for this launch.”

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“Shannon symbolizes many things,” said Duno-Gottberg. “I’d like to think of her as an example for women. To see that a female, who engages in sciences, and achieved this major feat of going to space in a historic mission.”

The spacecraft named “Resilience” by the crew, is now soaring high above Earth. Many students at Rice University are looking up, feeling inspired.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate scientific knowledge, and the role of science in society,” said Duno-Gottberg.