When the Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stand on the runway at Kennedy Space Centre in 2011, ending 30 years of the manned shuttle programme, it left Nasa with a problem.

Without enough government funding to build a replacement while the shuttle was still flying, the US had no means of launching its astronauts into orbit.

The only way to fly a crew to its own orbiting laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS) was to pay some $80m (£64m) for a seat in a cramped Russian Soyuz capsule.

It seemed extraordinary to many that the nation that had landed men on the Moon, built and serviced – in orbit, no less – the Hubble Space Telescope and assembled a giant space station was relying on a 45-year-old spacecraft built by its Cold War rival.

But Nasa had a long-term plan – the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) – and, after 13 years, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft means it is finally being fully realised.

You can read more about how we got to today’s launch in this article.