CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX’s newly launched capsule with four astronauts arrived at the International Space Station on Monday, their new home until spring.
The dragon capsule was pulled and docked Monday night, 27 hours after NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a fully automated flight. The linkup occurred at an altitude of 262 miles from Idaho.
When the Dragon’s commander Mike Hopkins first made his radio introduction, space center astronaut Kate Rubins called out, “Oh, what a good voice to hear.”
“We can’t wait for you to be on the plane,” she added after the two spaceships locked into each other.
This is the second astronaut mission for SpaceX. But this is the first time Elon Musk’s company has delivered a staff for a full half – year station stay. The two-pilot test flight earlier this year lasted for two months.
The three Americans and a Japanese astronaut will remain in an orbiting lab until another dragon replaces them in April. Hence it transports SpaceX – and eventually Boeing – astronauts from and to station for NASA.
This regular taxi service has been running since Sunday night.
Hopkins and his crew – Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Sochi Noguchi of Japan – were joined by two Russians and an American who flew to the space center from Kazakhstan last month. Glover was the first African-American to travel long distances. The spacecraft handed over its golden astronaut pin to newcomer Glover on Monday.
The four named their capsule Resilience, which provides hope and inspiration to the world in the most difficult year. They air their capsule tour on Monday, with touchscreen controls, storage areas and their zero gravity indicator: the little expensive Baby Yoda.
Walker said it was a little harder for them than the two astronauts on the test flight.
“We dance around each other to stay away from each other,” she says.
Since its launch on Sunday, NASA has kept guests to a minimum due to the coronavirus, and Musk also had to stay away after tweeting that he had a “most likely” infection. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has assured reporters that he is still in his official launch duties and that, despite being remote, he is still very much involved with Sunday night’s action.
As they prepare for the space station integration, Dragon crew broadcast live window views of New Zealand and a spectacular blue, cloudy Pacific 250 miles below.
Mission Control Radio broadcasts from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California “amazing”.
“It’s awesome from here on out,” Hopkins replied.