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Former NASA astronaut was looking forward to SpaceX launch

Dr. Kathy Sullivan knows what it's like to be the first. She was the first American woman to ever walk in space. So she made certain to witness another first on Wednesday - the first time ever that a privately developed spacecraft would launch humans into Earth's orbit.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -365体育投注开户 Dr. Kathy Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut, called Wednesday's planned SpaceX launch a "vital milestone" for the U.S.

"The stakes feel similar to me as the very first launch of the shuttle," she said. "A lot has gone into getting this vehicle and this system to this point. This is now showtime, the real deal, full up, so there’s a lot riding, obviously most of all Bob and Doug and the crew’s safety, but there’s a lot else riding on this mission as well."

365体育投注开户On Wednesday afternoon, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were set to launch into orbit in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Weather delayed those plans until at least Saturday.

365体育投注开户But when the launch does finally happen, it will mark several 'firsts' for American spaceflight.

It will be the first-ever manned launch for SpaceX in the company's 18-year history, the first time ever that a privately developed spacecraft launches humans into Earth's orbit, and the first time astronauts launch to the International Space Station from U.S. soil since NASA's Space Shuttle Program retired in 2011.

"It’s, I guess, like being a seafaring nation back in the 1800s," Dr. Sullivan said. "It’s absolutely vital, I believe, for a nation that tends to be kind of a leader or maintain its own sovereign power, to be a space-faring nation today, and that, I believe, should include having your own capability, the sovereign capability to launch people into orbit and beyond when that’s in your national interest and not have to go overseas and buy tickets from somebody else."

365体育投注开户Dr. Sullivan knows all about 'firsts' when it comes to space exploration. She will go down in history as the first-ever American woman to walk in space. She launched to space three times during her NASA career. And she was part of the mission that launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.

She could certainly imagine how the astronauts were feeling pre-launch on Wednesday.

"You can think of it a bit like climbing a mountain, and it takes a long time to get to the top of a place like Mount Everest, but that final bit is the last climb and the last walk," she said. "It is the stage that leads to the thing you’ve spent so much time and effort and sweat energy preparing for, to be at that summit, to be on the launch pad in a live rocket, ready to launch."

Despite the time and effort and planning and preparation that go into every launch, the missions never quite lose their cool factor either. That's why Sullivan planned to be at a neighbor's house for a launch party, taking in the would-be big moment like so many other Americans.

"I will feel like a spectator, but maybe a little more empathetic a spectator than the average bear," she said prior to the launch being scrapped.

Sullivan said continued space exploration is vital because it is tied to so many critical things here on earth, from crop monitoring to the weather forecast and communications. But she points out that traveling to space will never feel run-of-the-mill.

"One of our most renowned astronauts, John Young, who was my original boss when I went to NASA, he made the telling comment at the start of the space shuttle program," she said. "The space shuttle program was supposed to fly a lot, right, it was supposed to be as frequent as an airliner. That never came to pass, but someone, some reporter asked him, if he didn’t worry that if the flights happened a lot, happened really often, that it would just become routine and blah, and he looked at that reporter and said -- 'it might be frequent; it will never be routine.'"