Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have entered the International Space Station (ISS), after their Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully docked following its historic launch yesterday.
The spacecraft reached the station at 10:17 A.M. Eastern Time today, Sunday, May 31, with a slow approach and crawl gradually bringing it in for a gentle contact with the orbiting space laboratory.
Behnken and Hurley, who earlier announced they had named their spacecraft Endeavour after one of the Space Shuttles they both flew on, were on-hand to monitor events as the spacecraft’s autonomous system brought it in for a smooth docking.
It is the first private human spacecraft in history to achieve the feat of reaching the space station.
“It’s been a real honour to be such a small part of this nine-year endeavour since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Behnken said down to the ground following the successful docking.
“Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” Canadian astronaut Joshua Kutryk, capsule communicator for the mission, radioed back up from ISS mission control in Houston.
“For the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, you’ve completed a historic ride to the ISS.”
It took 19 hours for the spacecraft to reach the ISS after launching, flying mostly autonomously apart from the astronauts taking control on a couple of occasions to test out the spacecraft’s maneuverability.
Crew Dragon’s Draco thrusters continuously fired to make sure the spacecraft was perfectly aligned with the space station’s International Docking Adapter (IDA) on the space station’s Harmony module during the autonomous docking.
About three hours later at 1.22 P.M. Eastern Time, the astronauts finally entered the space station after checks had been completed and the air pressure between the capsule and the space station had been equalized.
“The whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine radioed up to the astronauts.
“We sure appreciate that sir,” Hurley replied. “It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business, and we’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”
Behnken and Hurley join NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, on board the ISS.
They will remain on the station for between one and four months, depending on progress made with the next mission – SpaceX’s Crew-1, expected to launch in August.
The docking follows yesterday’s historic launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the first privately-built spacecraft to take humans to orbit.
SpaceX developed the spacecraft with funding from NASA, alongside its rival Boeing and its Starliner vehicle – who hope to launch next year.
The mission heralds an exciting new era for spaceflight, where paying customers may be able to frequently travel to the ISS at a cost of $20 million a seat on Crew Dragon.
In 2012, SpaceX achieved a historic first with its Cargo Dragon vehicle when it docked to the ISS, the first commercial cargo spacecraft to reach the space station.
Now, it has reached yet another milestone in its young 18-year history – and there will no doubt be many more to come.
Courtesy: Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanocallaghan/2020/05/31/spacexs-crew-dragon-spacecraft-docks-with-international-space-station-in-historic-first/?utm_campaign=dailydozen&cdlcid=5d755b13195063fa4f5ad93d&utm_content=130643678&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&hss_channel=tw-87232739#4275d31765ab