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The astronauts on the joint mission to SpaceX and NASA have arrived at the space station

This completed an important step in the mission designed to test the private spacecraft and provide it with a license, after the smooth launch yesterday (Saturday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the first manned launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttles

 

Benken and Hurley, right, join the existing crew of the International Space Station. Photo: NASA
Benken and Hurley, right, join the existing crew of the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

American astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken docked and entered the International Space Station (ISS). Their Crew Dragon capsule - supplied and operated by the SpaceX company - docked with the International Space Station at an altitude of 422 km above China.

After waiting for over an hour for leak, pressure and temperature tests, the pair of astronauts left the spacecraft that brought them and joined the crew at the space station.

This completed an important phase of the mission, after the smooth launch yesterday (Saturday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the first manned launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttles.

From now on, NASA will actually purchase passenger transportation services from the private sector and will stop designing, building and maintaining spacecraft that will go up to the space station. This component will be made by two companies - Elon Musk's SpaceX, which reached the finish line first, and Boeing, whose Starliner spacecraft has not yet completed the unmanned test phases.

The connection was completed at 17:16 Israel time today (Sunday 31/5), about 19 hours after the launch which was carried out using SpaceX's Falcon 9 model launcher. Docking was completely autonomous. Harley and Banken were not required to perform the manual connection steps to which they were trained.

The doors between the Dragon and the space station opened at 20:02 as Hurley and Benken floated in, where they were greeted by Space Station Commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner. It is important to note that the two are active NASA astronauts and not SpaceX employees.

The winning companies committed to build launchers, spacecraft and related systems to transport up to four astronauts to the space station. In this way, it will be possible to return the size of the station's crew to seven astronauts, who will be able to perform more scientific tasks, and reduce the relative part of their time dedicated to station maintenance.

Two companies have already announced a plan to "purchase" SpaceX spacecraft launches, and fly private individuals into space. One of them wants to transport tourists to the space station (and now NASA will allow up to two space tourists to be brought to the station per year). The other will offer a flight in a higher orbit than the space station around Earth. Also, actor Tom Cruise has expressed interest in using the space station as a set for filming a movie. In NASA, which needs public relations, they tend to regard this request positively, but it is still early to make decisions as long as the spacecraft has not received the final certification.

 

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