CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBSNEWS.COM) – Opening a new chapter in American spaceflight, two Texas-based space shuttle fliers will blaze a fresh trail to orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Wednesday, weather permitting — the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil since the space shuttle’s final flight nearly nine years ago.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley (right) pose for the media after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center on May 20, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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The historic mission, the first orbital flight of a new piloted spacecraft in 39 years, is the culmination of a six-year, multibillion-dollar NASA drive to end the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for transportation to and from the space station.

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The government-financed, privately owned and operated astronaut ferry ships will enable NASA to expand the space station’s crew to seven

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