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NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley once again helped make history for the rocket company SpaceX founded by Elon Musk, docking with a laboratory the size of a football field above Earth.
After flying into space on Saturday on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spacecraft – a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavor” – disconnected from its launcher and entered. in orbit. The ship then performed a series of engine burns to catch up with the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling at 17,500 mph.
Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their goal. Endeavor flew below the 0 billion orbit lab, then stopped to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.
The two men then spent a few minutes manually control the ship’s thrusters via touch screens while connected to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
“He was flying pretty much like the [simulator]so my congratulations to the folks at Hawthorne. He flew very well, very, very clean, ”said Hurley during a live webcast, adding that his management was “a little more sloppy” in a high-low direction, although as expected.
Behnken and Hurley then turned Endeavor’s autopilot and spacecraft back on. flew so carefully to a mooring port called Node 2, located at the front end of the space station.
The ship’s mooring mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET as it flew over northern China and Mongolia. The ship’s latches then hermetically sealed Endeavor to the ISS, allowing crews to begin an approximately two-hour hatch opening procedure.
“A new chapter in manned space exploration”
SpaceX docking to the ISS is thefirst by a privately developed spaceship with a crew on board.
The last time an American spacecraft was attached to the space station was in July 2011 – the flight of the space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.
“It has been a true honor to be a part of a very small part of this nine-year company, since the last time an American spacecraft docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after. mooring. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor and the Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the past few years to make this possible cannot be overstated. “
Hurley then thanked NASA staff, after which ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where U.S. Mission Control for the ISS is based, then sent its own congratulations.
“Strive it’s Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station, “said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a” historic journey “and a” magnificent moment in the air. ‘history of spaceflight’.
“You have opened a new chapter in manned space exploration,” he added.
Historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest
After docking, the Endeavor and ISS crews prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of security checks, Behnken and Hurley flew through Endeavor’s hatch and into the waiting arms of Commander Cassidy, Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.
The crews then picked up a microphone to speak at mission control in Houston, where NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Representative Brian Babin from Texas were waiting for a chance to speak.
“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of all that you have done for our country and, in fact, inspire the world,” said Bridenstine.
“It’s great to bring the United States back into the crewed launches business,” replied Hurley. “We are really delighted to be on board this magnificent complex.
Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts had slept: “We probably had a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.
Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “He flew like he was supposed to,” said Hurley.
The junior senator also asked the astronauts what the Americans could learn about assembling their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “difficult week” for the country – a reference to the protests that have erupted across the United States in response to the murder by a white policeman of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke of SpaceX and NASA working together for years of sacrifice to restore the United States’ ability to launch people into orbit.
“It is just an effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we have experienced over the past few months,” said Hurley.
Senator Babin asked what a rocket orbiting on top of a Falcon 9 rocket looked like.
“We were a little surprised at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was quite a difficult journey before it went into orbit with the solid rockets, ”Behnken said. But he noted that the shuttle was “much smoother” after its boosters dropped than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon for the duration of this flight.
“The dragon was blowing and blowing to orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way. So it wasn’t quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle, ”Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was“ a bit more alive ”.
The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for the next 110 days. At the end of their stay, the astronauts will re-board the Endeavor, disembark from the ISS, and back to earth.
The overarching goal of the test mission is to show that SpaceX’s ship is safe to transport people.
If NASA determines that this is the case, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronauts and maximize its capacity to conduct research.
NASA Live: Official NASA TV broadcast
Watch the Demo-2 mission in progress live on NASA TV: