Launch of Manned SpaceX Rocket Postponed Until Weekend

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The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit was called off with less than 17 minutes to go in the countdown Wednesday because of thunderclouds and the danger of lightning.

Liftoff was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.

"Unfortunately the weather did not quite cooperate," said Jim Clark, a graduate student at MIT studying aerospace engineering, adding that it's "a big deal for SpaceX because they're a relative newcomer in the aerospace field."

The spacecraft — designed, built and owned by SpaceX — was set to blast off in the afternoon for the International Space Station, ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight. It would have also marked the first time in nearly a decade that the United States launched astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil.

"The last thing you want is to have lightning hit your rocket," said Tom Bania, professor of astronomy at Boston University. "It's filled with thousands and thousands of gallons of extremely flammable stuff and it would explode."

NASA hopes to send astronauts back to the moon in the next few years, and then travel on to Mars in the 2030s.

"The ultimate goal is to land on Mars," said Bania. "They're designing a ship to send 150 people to Mars on the first flight and establish a permanent base there."

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