SpaceX Capsule With NASA, ESA Astronauts Docks With International Space Station: Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday and docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with the laboratory in orbit to begin the six-month science mission.
The team and its capsule met nearly 21 hours after being launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, postponing liftoff for a week on Wednesday night following a weather delay.
The docking took place around 6.30 pm. EST (5am IST on Friday) while the Crew Dragon vehicle, called Endurance, and the space station were flying about 260 miles (420 km) above the eastern Caribbean Sea, according to NASA.
The Endurance crew includes three American NASA astronauts – Flight Commander Raja Chari, 44, Mission Pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and Mission Specialist Kayla Barone, 34 – as well as German Astronaut Mathias Maurer, 51, a mission specialist for the European Space Agency,
Upon arrival, the crew took inventory, performed standard leak checks, and pressurized the space between the spacecraft in preparation for opening the hatch for the space station approximately two hours later.
A live NASA video feed from the station showed the new arrival floating from their capsule via a padded passage to the orbiting outpost.
They were greeted by hugs from three current space station occupants — Russian astronauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitsky — and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who shared a Soyuz flight with their Roscosmos crew on campus.
Endeavor’s second-in-command, Marshburn – a medical doctor and former NASA flight surgeon – has logged the last two spaceflights to the space station and four spacewalks.
Maurer, a materials science engineer, was making his first space flight, as were Chari, a US Air Force fighter jet and test pilot, and Barron, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer. Shortly after arriving aboard, Marshburn placed astronaut feathers on the collars of three of his rookie colleagues amid a handshake and smile.
Both Chari and Barron are among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to return humans to the Moon more than half a century after the Apollo lunar program ends at the end of this decade.
“I think we all loved the ride here,” Chari said during a brief remark from the station in a reception webcast. “It was as easy as we could have imagined.”
NASA said SpaceX Dragon also delivered more than 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of hardware and research equipment.
The crew that arrived Thursday was officially designated “Crew 3” — the third full-blown “operational” crew that NASA and SpaceX have flown to the space station together after a two-astronaut test run in May 2020.
“Crew 2” returned safely to Earth Monday from the space station in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida with a splashdown, setting a record 199 days in orbit.
SpaceX, the rocket company created in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla, has recorded a total of 15 manned space flights in 17 months, including the first all-civilian crew astro-tourism launch sent to Earth in September. Orbit without professional astronauts.
The space station, stretched end to end the size of an American football field, has been operated continuously since November 2000 by an international partnership of five space agencies from 15 countries.
An international crew of at least seven people usually lives and operates on the platform, traveling around the Earth every 90 minutes at 5 miles (8 km) per second.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
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