Astronauts Return To International Space Station On Reused SpaceX Rocket

On Friday (April 23), four astronauts made history as they headed to the International Space Station in a reused SpaceX rocket. The launch marked the first time that SpaceX used a recycled rocket and capsule to send astronauts into space.

The crew is using the same Dragon capsule that launched astronauts into space last May. Before the launch, SpaceX replaced some of the ship's thermal shielding and installed new parachutes on the capsule.

The flight is expected to last about 23 hours, and the crew is scheduled to dock with the space station early Saturday morning.

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur got to sit in the same seat as her husband, Bob Behnken, when he became one of the first Americans launched into space on a commercial spacecraft back in May.

The crew is being commanded by Shane Kimbrough and includes Japan's Akihiko Hoshide and France's Thomas Pesquet. The astronauts will spend six months orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station.

"The future's looking good. I think we're at the dawn of a new era of space exploration," SpaceX founder Elon Musk said after the successful launch.

About two hours after lift-off, the crew praised the smooth ride into orbit during a tour of the spacecraft.

"The ride was really smooth, and we couldn't have asked for anything better," McArthur said. "Hope you enjoyed the show."

Photo: Getty Images