Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, arrived at the International Space Station Thursday and docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to the orbiting laboratory to begin a six-month scientific mission.
The rendezvous took place about 21 hours after the team and its capsule launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Wednesday evening after a series of weather delays that caused the launch by a week and one Had postponed half a year.
Docking took place around 6:30 p.m. EST (Friday 5:00 a.m. IST) while the Crew Dragon vehicle, called the Endurance, and the space station flew about 260 miles (420 km) over the eastern Caribbean Sea, according to NASA.
The endurance crew consists of three American NASA astronauts – flight commander Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and mission specialist Kayla Barron, 34 – as well as the German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, a mission specialist from the European Space Agency.
Upon arrival, the crew took an inventory, performed standard leak tests, and pressurized the space between the spacecraft to open the hatch to the space station about two hours later.
A live NASA video feed from the station showed the newcomers floating upside down through a padded passageway from their capsule to the outpost in orbit.
They were greeted with hugs on board by the three current occupants of the space station – Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who shared a Soyuz flight to the complex with his Roscosmos crewmates.
Endeavor’s deputy Marshburn – a doctor and former NASA flight surgeon – has logged two previous space flights to the space station and four spacewalks.
Maurer, a materials science engineer, made his first space flight, as did Chari, a fighter jet and test pilot in the US Air Force, and Barron, a submarine officer and nuclear engineer in the US Navy. Shortly after boarding, Marshburn attached the astronaut wings to the collars of his three fellow rookies with a handshake and a smile.
Both Chari and Barron are among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, which aim to bring people back to the moon later this decade, over half a century after the Apollo lunar program ended .
“I think we all loved the ride up here,” said Chari during a brief welcome at a webcast of the station’s welcome ceremony. “It was a lot smoother than we could have imagined.”
The SpaceX Dragon also delivered more than 1,800 kg of hardware and research equipment, NASA said.
The crew arriving on Thursday was officially referred to as “Crew 3” – the third fully-fledged “operational” crew that NASA and SpaceX flew to the space station together in May 2020 after a test run with two astronauts.
“Crew 2” returned safely from the space station to Earth on Monday, with a splash in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida that hit a record 199 days in orbit.
SpaceX, the rocket company founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla, has logged a total of 15 manned space flights in 17 months, including the astronautics launch of the first all-civilian crew sent to Earth orbit without professional astronauts.
The space station, which spans the size of an American football field, has been continuously manned since November 2000 and is operated by an international partnership of five space agencies from 15 countries.
An international crew of at least seven people normally live and work on board the platform as it travels 8 km per second and orbits the earth approximately every 90 minutes.
© Thomson Reuters 2021