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NASA's SpaceX Crew-8 mission en route to International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

March 3 (UPI) -- NASA's SpaceX Crew-8 successfully launched from the Florida coast on Sunday night with a final destination of the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Dragon Endeavour spacecraft launched at 10:53 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, to cheers from the ground crew.

The spacecraft was sent hurtling into space where Crew-8's three American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut will live for the next 28 hours or so as they make their way to the International Space Station. There, they will dock early Tuesday, relieve Crew-7 and start a six-month mission of their own.

The launch was initially scheduled for Saturday night, but SpaceX posted an update on X that evening standing down the mission due to elevated winds at the launch site and in the flight track of the spacecraft.

On Sunday night, as the countdown ticked toward zero, there were concerns over a small crack found in the seal of the capsule's side hatch. SpaceX had initially said it may present problems on re-entry but following further analysis ruled the launch could go ahead as planned.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage returns to Landing Zone 1 after launching its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage returns to Landing Zone 1 after launching its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

"We are confident that we understand the issue and we can still fly the whole mission safely," ground control told Crew-8.

"We expect the gap created by this crack in the seal to close as the material will swell with re-entry heating," it said. "The engineering team here is comfortable proceeding."

A SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage ignites as it returns to Landing Zone 1 after launching its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage ignites as it returns to Landing Zone 1 after launching its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

"Crew-7, this is Crew-8, we're coming for you," NASA's Matthew Dominick said in response. "It's time for Crew-8 to relieve you of the watch of the International Space Station. SpaceX Dragon, we are ready for you to cast off the strongback and launch Dragon Endeavour on its fifth voyage."

"We copied all," said ground control. "Godspeed, Crew-8."

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket creates a plume at staging as it launches its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 PM from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket creates a plume at staging as it launches its Cargo Dragon spacecraft with NASA's Crew 8 to the International Space Station at 10:53 PM from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Crew-8 consists of NASA astronauts Dominick, pilot Michael Barratt and mission specialist Jeanette Epps. Of the three, only Barratt has been to space before, with Sunday being his fourth trip off Earth.

Alexander Grebenkin of Russia's Roscosmos space agency was also on the crew and will serve as a flight engineer.

The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 members, Michael Barrett and Matthew Dominick (front l & r) with Aleksandr Grebenkin and Jeanette Epps (rear l & r) walk out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. SpaceX will launch the crew to the International Space Station. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 members, Michael Barrett and Matthew Dominick (front l & r) with Aleksandr Grebenkin and Jeanette Epps (rear l & r) walk out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. SpaceX will launch the crew to the International Space Station. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Minutes after launch, first-stage separation was confirmed and the booster successfully returned to Earth, which was followed by Endeavour's separation and entrance into orbit.

"The words that come to my mind are that I'm so grateful and I'm thankful for everyone who got us to this point," Epps, a Syracuse, N.Y., native, said once hitting orbit.

The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 member and Mission Specialist Jeanette Epps poses for family after walking out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 member and Mission Specialist Jeanette Epps poses for family after walking out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

"I am in a New York state of mind right now. It is amazing."

Crew-8 is scheduled to dock with the ISS' forward-facing Harmony module port at about 3 a.m. Tuesday. After about an hour and a half later, the hatch is to open, and they will be greeted on the space station by the seven-member Expedition 70 crew.

The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 member Aleksandr Grebenkin of Roscosmos waves to family members after walking out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 member Aleksandr Grebenkin of Roscosmos waves to family members after walking out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

To follow will be several days of what NASA calls "handover activities." Crew-7, which reached the ISS in September, is then to de-dock from the space orbital and return to Earth later this month.

During Crew-8's six-month stay, they are to conduct some 200 scientific experiments, including medical experiments, and technology demonstrations, officials said.

The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 member and Pilot Michael Barratt points to family members after walking out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The NASA SpaceX Crew 8 member and Pilot Michael Barratt points to family members after walking out from the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

SpaceX said with Sunday's launch, it has put 50 humans into space.