SpaceX: Nasa astronauts dock at the International Space Station on historic mission

Andrew Griffin
Sunday 31 May 2020 16:30
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NASA and SpaceX craft docks with International Space Station

Nasa astronauts and a SpaceX capsule have arrived at the International Space Station as part of a historic mission.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived after a 19-hour journey that began at Kennedy Space Centre with a lift-off that represented a number of firsts.

It was the first time that Elon Musk’s space company – or any private firm – had put humans into space, as well as the first time astronauts had taken off from US soil since the end of Nasa’s space shuttle programme in 2011.

The space station orbits at about 220 miles above the planet, and the floating laboratory will serve as a home for the two astronauts over the coming months, during which further tests will be conducted on the Crew Dragon capsule that carried them there.

“Welcome home,” Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted to the pair. ”America’s two favourite dads in space have docked to the Space Station,” he wrote.

The spacecraft had to perform a series of manoeuvres to raise its orbit in order to come close enough to dock at the space station.

The Dragon docked autonomously to a port on the bow section of the station’s Harmony module.

Once the Dragon is sealed in place and pressure checks are completed, the hatch door will open and Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken will join the three other space station residents, Nasa’s Chris Cassidy and Russia’s Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, to become members of the Expedition 63 crew.​

The aim of the mission is to demonstrate SpaceX’s ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and back safely.

It is the final major step for SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, before it can be certified by Nasa’s Commercial Crew Programme for long-term manned missions to space.

The mission is expected to last anything between one and four months.

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