SpaceX capsule docks on the 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 orbiting lab to begin a six-month science mission.

The appointment came about 21 hours after the team and its capsule were launched onto a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday night, following a series of weather delays. they postponed takeoff for a week and a week. half.

The docking took place around 6:30 pm EST (2330 GMT) as the Crew Dragon vehicle, dubbed 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 German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, a mission specialist with the European Space Agency. .

Upon arrival, the crew performed a series of standard leak checks and pressurized the space between the spacecraft in preparation for opening the hatch to the space station.

The astronauts will be greeted aboard the orbiting outpost by its three current occupants: Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who shared a Soyuz flight with his Roscosmos crewmates to the station. space earlier this year.

Among the newcomers are two members of NASA’s latest class of graduate astronauts who are also active duty military personnel: Chari, a US Air Force fighter jet and test pilot, and Barron. , a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken take off during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cabo Canaveral, Florida, USA, May 30, 2020 (Credit: JOE SKIPPER / REUTERS)

Endeavor’s second-in-command is veteran astronaut Marshburn, a physician and former NASA flight surgeon who has recorded two previous space flights to the space station and four spacewalks.

Rounding out the crew is Maurer, a materials science engineer who, like Chari and Barron, is making his first flight into space.

Both Chari and Barron are also among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, which aim to return humans to the moon by the end of this decade, more than half a century after the Apollo lunar program ended. .

The astronaut team that arrived Thursday was officially designated “Crew 3,” the third full-fledged “operational” crew that NASA and SpaceX have flown to the space station together after a two-astronaut test in May 2020.

“Crew 2” returned safely to Earth from the space station on Monday with a landing in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida that capped a record 199 days in orbit.

SpaceX, the California-based company formed in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla Inc, has logged a total of 15 manned spaceflights in 17 months, including the launch of astro-tourism in September of the fully civilian first crew. sent to Earth orbit without professional astronauts.

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