After launching from the Florida coast early Friday as part of NASA’s SpaceX rocket Crew-2 flight, four astronauts from three countries docked at the International Space Station Saturday morning.
The Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft, which was used for the first-ever crewed SpaceX flight last May, docked at the ISS for the second time at 5:08 a.m. Saturday after a nearly 23-hour journey. The hatch will open at 7:15 a.m., and the welcome ceremony will begin at 7:45 a.m. Saturday is the day.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has launched four astronauts toward the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket took off at 5:49 a.m. EDT from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. https://t.co/0Du2TzFPQC pic.twitter.com/XV2h97Z9xw— Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 23, 2021
Just before sunrise on Friday, the Falcon 9 rocket blazed through a dark sky, and NASA announced that the astronauts had safely entered orbit.
NASA CEO Steve Yorkzek news conference
“I never get tired of seeing a launch from Kennedy Space Center. I’ve seen a lot of launches, but a pre-dawn launch is particularly thrilling and visually spectacular,” NASA acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said at a post-launch news conference Friday morning.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA), make up the crew.
“What an amazing launch,” Kimbrough said from the Crew Dragon “Endeavor” capsule shortly after the astronauts entered orbit. “Hopefully, you guys got to watch it this morning, right as the sun was rising, we took off,” Kimbrough said
“We followed the sun easily and were able to catch up only a few minutes after taking off. “Seeing the sunlight come in shortly after liftoff was very special,” the mission’s commander said.
“The climb was amazing, and the ride was very smooth,” McArthur said. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation.” Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company has only flown astronauts three times, with Friday’s launch being the seventh.
It also marked the beginning of a new age of reusability in human space exploration, as the project employs the same Falcon 9 rocket that delivered four astronauts to the International Space Station last November, as well as the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that delivered and returned two astronauts during SpaceX rocket first crewed flight last May.
Prior to launch, the 45th Weather Squadron of the United States Space Force predicted a 95 percent chance of favorable weather conditions in the region.
NASA’s website and social media pages began live coverage of the launch at 1:30 a.m. ET. According to Jurczyk, the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory got a call from the US government earlier this week. President Joe Biden congratulated the scientists on their achievement of the first-ever powered flight on another planet.
“We empower commercial space operations, show leadership, and inspire the next generation,” he said. The diverse crew will spend six months on the space station conducting science experiments.
The mission’s pilot, McArthur, is married to fellow astronaut Bob Behnken, who was a member of the groundbreaking first NASA-SpaceX rocket mission in May. Behnken previously said that this time it’s “her turn to concentrate on gett” in an interview.
Kimbrough, 53, is the mission’s commander and an Army veteran.
The father of three has spent 189 days in space since joining NASA in 2000 as a flight simulation engineer.
Hoshide, a 52-year-old Tokyo resident, will work as a project specialist for Crew-2. In 2008, he made his first spaceflight, and in 2012, he spent 124 days on the International Space Station.
Pesquet, 43, is the first European Space Agency astronaut to participate in a NASA-SpaceX flight. He has also logged a chunk of time aboard the ISS, spending six months on the station in 2016. The French astronaut will serve as a mission specialist.