ELON MUSK’s SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft has safely docked at the International Space Station.
The four-person craft took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Sunday night, and has docked on the ISS after a 27-hour journey. SpaceX founder Musk could not attend liftoff due to a “moderate” case of the coronavirus.
The docking will be followed by a “welcome ceremony” at 1:40 AM Eastern on Tuesday, where all four astronauts will be able to exit their spacecraft since they took off.
The four astronauts consist of three from NASA: Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and one from Japan’s space agency Soichi Noguchi.
They will join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who are already onboard the ISS.
NASA and SpaceX have been working for a decade to return human spaceflight to the United States while ensuring the multibillion-dollar ISS remains functional and staffed.
A safe docking marks the end of the first step in NASA’s and SpaceX’s landmark mission, and marks the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX.
The Dragon capsule is the first privately owned and operated spacecraft to receive certification from NASA for human spaceflight. SpaceX received the important certification just days ago.
With just three staffers – a drop from 13 astronauts in 2009 – the ISS has fewer people to run experiments and keep the station maintained.
The mission is of particular significance for Glover, a rookie astronaut and Navy commander, whose first time in space will be recorded in history as being the first Black astronaut to spend an extended period aboard the ISS.
Mission commander Hopkins asked ground control during a brief dispatch Monday afternoon if they could see Glover smiling “because it hasn’t stopped since we’ve been up here.”
With a minor technical difficulty easily solved after takeoff, the spacecraft’s inhabitants were able to fully enjoy their ascent to the ISS.
NASA intentionally lengthened the amount of time the Crew Dragon was flying in free orbit in order to give the crew some ample sleeping time in order to be fully alert upon docking.
They are expected to spend six months on the ISS working on a variety of science experiments and conducting spacewalks to continue updates and repairs on the ISS exterior.
They will be joined later on by another group of astronauts on a mission called Crew-2 that is set to launch in the spring.
More to follow…
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