During a recent podcast interview with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Artificial Intelligence researcher Lex Fridman, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared that he got on his knees to pray for SpaceX to have a successful crewed flight. “[…] Allow me to say that the SpaceX launch of human beings to orbit on May 30th, 2020, was seen by many as the first step of a new era of human space exploration. These human spaceflight missions were a beacon of hope to me and to millions over the past few years as our world has been going through one of the most difficult periods of human history […]” Fridman told Musk.
“Elon, let me say thank you for giving the world hope and reason to be excited about the future,” Fridman added. –“That’s kind of you to say. I do want to do that. Humanity has, obviously, a lot of issues and people at times do bad things but despite all that, I love humanity,” Musk responded, “…We should do everything we can to have a good future and an exciting future… one where maximizes the happiness of the people.”
SpaceX ushered a new era in American human spaceflight in 2020 when it launched its first crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that aimed to return routine human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. No astronauts had launched from American soil since the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded in 2011. Spacex's first crewed demonstration mission, known as Demo-2, launched NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to ISS to certify the rocket and spacecraft was ready for frequent crew flights. They lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft from historic Launch Pad-39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Fridman asked Musk about how he felt the days leading to SpaceX launching its first ever crewed flight to the Space Station. “That was extremely stressful… We, obviously, could not let them [Behnken and Hurley] down in any way,” Musk said, “[…] Now, I am not a religious person but I, nonetheless, got on my knees and prayed for this mission,” he shared, adding that he was unable to sleep the day prior. Upon mission success, he was relieved that all went well and that Behnken and Hurley safely arrived and returned from the Space Station. The Demo-2 mission's success paved the way for SpaceX to perform more crewed space flights in the years to follow. To date, the aerospace company has conducted five crewed flights, including the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit the Earth for three days aboard Crew Dragon in September 2021 called 'Inspiration4.'
NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley Demo-2 Mission. / Source: SpaceX & NASA