US president Donald Trump has celebrated the first launch of American astronauts from US soil in nearly a decade.
At the launch site in Florida, Mr Trump marvelled at the power of the rocket ship and the danger faced by its passengers as they soared into the stratosphere, providing a moment of triumph for the president even as his country raged over the death of a black man in police custody.
Protests have broken out in several American cities over the death of George Floyd, which briefly dominated the agenda over a domestic coronavirus death toll which has climbed past 100,000.
Mr Trump said of the SpaceX rocket launch: “That was a beautiful sight to see and I hope you all enjoyed it.”
For the US leader, the second time was the charm. He also flew to the Kennedy Space Centre on Wednesday before the launch was postponed at the last minute because of bad weather.
Following Saturday’s successful launch, he said: “When you hear that sound and you hear all of that roar, you can imagine how dangerous it is.
“When you feel the shake — and we’re very far away — but when you feel the shake over here, it’s pretty amazing. Beautiful site. A beautiful ship, too.”
Asked why he felt it was important to be in Florida for the launch, given all that is going on in the country, Mr Trump said the launch was a “great inspiration” for the country.
Mr Trump said: “We suffered something that was terrible, it should have never happened. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be here today. I thought it was so important to be here today.
“And I think any one of you would say, that was an inspiration to see what we just saw.”