SpaceX captures the flag, beating Boeing in cosmic contest

In this image taken from NASA video on Monday, June 1, 2020, NASA astronauts Robert L. Behnken, left, and Chris Cassidy right, listen as commander Douglas Hurley speaks about retrieving the American flag left behind at the International Space Station nearly a decade ago.   (NASA via AP)
In this image taken from NASA video on Monday, June 1, 2020, NASA astronauts Robert L. Behnken, left, and Chris Cassidy right, listen as commander Douglas Hurley speaks about retrieving the American flag left behind at the International Space Station nearly a decade ago. (NASA via AP) (NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The first astronauts launched by SpaceX declared victory Monday in NASA’s cosmic capture-the-flag game.

They quickly claimed the prize left behind at the International Space Station nearly a decade ago by the last crew to launch from the U.S.

“Congratulations, SpaceX, you got the flag,” NASA astronaut Doug Hurley said a day after arriving at the space station.

Hurley showed off the small U.S. flag during a news conference and again in a linkup with SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

"You can bet we will take it with us when we depart back to Earth,” said Hurley, floating alongside Dragon crewmate Bob Behnken.

The flag flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the final one in 2011. Hurley was on that last shuttle crew.

The flag was an added incentive for Elon Musk's SpaceX company and Boeing, competing to be the first private company to launch a crew to the space station. Saturday’s liftoff of NASA astronauts was the first from the U.S. in nine years. Boeing's first astronaut flight isn’t expected until next year. The crew will include Chris Ferguson, commander of the last shuttle flight who now works for Boeing.

“Proud to yield the title of “The last commander of an American launched spacecraft” to @Astro_Doug who, with @AstroBehnken, has returned US to space from KSC after 3,252 days. Well done,” Ferguson tweeted following the SpaceX liftoff.