US astronauts disembark from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and board the International Space Station

Astronauts dock at International Space Station from SpaceX craft

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft docked at the space station at 10:16 a.m. ET on Sunday morning after launch from the Florida Kennedy Space Center on Saturday and traveled 19 hours. After making initial contact with the ISS, Crew Dragon followed a series of steps to further dock the spacecraft with its port, including power connection and the creation of an airlock seal, before the first one opened. of the two hatches. Behnken and Hurley are expected to remain aboard the space station for one to three months.

On Sunday morning, the spacecraft carefully approached the space station and then made a “soft catch,” meaning Crew Dragon made its first physical contact with its docking port on the International Space Station. Crew Dragon then performed a “hard catch,” which involved the use of 12 latches to create a watertight seal between Behnken and Hurley’s crew cabin and their entrance to the space station, and connected the Crew Dragon’s power supply to the ISS.

Compared to the big drama on Saturday’s release, the docking may have seemed like a slow burn.

At one point, the webcast host mentioned that Crew Dragon was moving a fraction of a meter per second toward its destination. That, however, is only relatively relative: Both the spacecraft and the space station were still traversing orbit at more than 17,000 miles per hour (approximately 27,000 kilometers per hour). But because they were traveling at similar speeds, the cameras on board the station made it appear as though Crew Dragon was moving slowly.

Crew Dragon has a name: Endeavor

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley toured their Crew Dragon spacecraft using on-board cameras as the vehicle headed toward the International Space Station on Saturday night.

And they announced a name for the vehicle: Effort.
Astronauts chose that name for various reasons, Hurley said in the internet broadcast. For one thing, the name honors the years-long effort that human spaceflight was returning to the United States after the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. And it honors the longstanding friendship Hurley and Behnken have shared, and their stories. with NASA: Both astronauts began their careers in space flight with missions aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. (The namesake of that vehicle was an 18th century ship commanded by British explorer James Cook, hence the British spelling of “Effort“)

Special Charge: A Shining Dinosaur

NASA and SpaceX have already revealed that a couple of special works of art were aboard Crew Dragon with the astronauts. But live viewers also saw a shiny little dinosaur on board with Hurley and Behnken.

During their update from orbit on Saturday, the astronauts shared what it was about: They both have young children who are big fans of dinosaurs, and the astronauts allowed their children to vote on which of their toys would be kept on this mission.

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The selection was a blue and pink sequined Apatosaurus.

What does this milestone mean

Crew Dragon and the astronauts have now passed two main milestones: launch and dock, without encountering any major issues. That is a great victory for SpaceX, which has been working right now since the company was founded in 2002.

It is also a celebration point for NASA, which made the controversial decision to ask the private sector to design vehicles for transport to the ISS after the Space Shuttlle program was withdrawn in 2011. NASA has long associated with the private sector, but never before. delivered the design, development, and testing of a human-rated spacecraft to a commercial company.

After delays, development issues, and some political hurdles, a successful first launch of astronauts will mark a major victory for people within the space agency who hope to continue using longer commercial contracts. That includes NASA’s ambitions to put people on the moon in 2024.

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About the Author: Cory Weinberg

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