American astronauts in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule were completing the final closing procedures before entering the International Space Station after the hatch between the two ships opened.
The hatch opened at 1:02 pm EST (1702 GMT) when Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were ready to cross into the station, the first American astronauts to arrive on an American spacecraft in nine years.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying two NASA astronauts docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, the first time a manned American spacecraft has performed the feat in nearly a decade.
It was also the first time for the private sector, a moment of triumph for the company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. NASA hopes to build on such partnerships to start a new era of space travel.
The “soft catch,” the moment the spacecraft makes first contact and begins to engage with the target vehicle, occurred at 10:16 am Eastern Time (1416 GMT), slightly ahead of schedule.
At that time, the ISS orbited 262 miles (422 kilometers) over the border between Mongolia and northern China.
A few minutes later, “hard capture” was accomplished when the two spacecraft were joined with an airtight seal.
On board are astronauts Bob Behnkhen and Doug Hurley, both veterans of the space shuttle program that was closed in 2011.
“We copied, the docking is complete,” said Hurley, the spacecraft commander.
“It has been a true honor to be a small part of this nine-year effort since the last time a United States spacecraft has docked with the International Space Station.”
Next, the vestibule between the Dragon and the ISS will be pressurized and the hatch will open.
Behnkhen and Hurley will join fellow NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the station.
The Crew Dragon capsule had spent the previous 19 hours chasing the station at speeds of 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kph), before carefully aligning its orbital plane and slowing down to crawl through the delicate docking procedure.
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