WASHINGTON: On Tuesday, after successfully docking in a historic achievement for private space travel, four astronauts riding a newly built spacecraft from Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX greeted their new crewmates aboard the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, named Durability, opened its hatch door shortly after 1 a.m. in the first full-fledged NASA flight ferrying a crew into orbit on a private spacecraft. EST (0600 GMT), atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., two hours after docking and 27 hours after launching.
This is Resilience, SpaceX. Nice work. Right down the middle,’ said Crew Dragon Commander Mike Hopkins after docking the spacecraft. “SpaceX and NASA, congratulations, this is a new age of operating flights from the Florida coast to the International Space Station.”
The team of three Americans and one Japanese astronaut emerged from the capsule a few minutes later and boarded the station, welcoming the new crew of one U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts.
For the next six months, the space station, an orbital laboratory approximately 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, will be their home. After that they will be replaced by another set of astronauts on a Crew Dragon spacecraft. Until Boeing enters the programme with its own spacecraft late next year the rotation will continue.
Since 2011, when the U.S. shuttle programme ended, NASA has been relying on Russia’s space programme.
In addition to Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, Hopkins arrived with two fellow NASA astronauts, pilot Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker, making his third journey to space after previously flying on the U.S. shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.
“Actually, the last 27 hours have been really smooth,” said Hopkins after boarding the space station. “We look forward to the next six months, and we can’t wait to start.”
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