Biden commends SpaceX launch, vows to continue space exploration as president

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) congratulated National Aeronautics and Space Administration

(NASA) and SpaceX for the successful launch of the Crew Dragon capsule, the first manned space mission to take off from U.S. soil since 2011.

"I congratulate NASA, SpaceX, and all the hardworking women and men who made today a victory for American innovation and persistence," Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Saturday in a statement.

"This mission represents the culmination of work begun years ago, and which President Obama and I fought hard to ensure would become a reality."

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken, veterans of NASA's retired space shuttle program, were launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Fla., several minutes before 3:30 p.m. local time. It will take the pair roughly 19 hours to reach the International Space Station (ISS), where they'll stay for an extended period of time.

The launch had previously been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but was scrapped and rescheduled to Saturday afternoon because of inclement weather.

President Trump was in attendance for the launch and also praised the work of the country's space agency and SpaceX.

"I'm so proud of the people, of NASA, public and private," the president said. "When you see a sight like that, it's incredible. When you hear that sound - the roar - you can imagine how dangerous it is."

Since NASA's last shuttle mission in 2011, the U.S. has only traveled on Russian space craft to the ISS. 

NASA contracted SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk's company, to develop the Crew Dragon capsule. Manufacturer Boeing is also working on a viable spacecraft to be used by the agency.

Unlike the space shuttles, which were owned by NASA, SpaceX and Boeing own the created space vehicles.