SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule successfully docks with International Space Station

James Marshall
June 1, 2020

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken reported that the capsule was performing beautifully, as they closed in for the docking.

Having arrived in orbit, Crew Dragon began a 19-hour pursuit of the station, beginning with a phase burn and the mission's first manual flight test.

With their trip to the space station completed, the pair can claim victory in an epic game of capture the flag, taking possession of the American flag that was brought to the station on the last shuttle flight, and was waiting to return to Earth by the first crew to reach the station from USA soil.

It is the final major step required by SpaceX's astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get certified by Nasa's Commercial Crew Programme for long-term manned missions to space.

Another option is a barter system proposed by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine: for every Russian riding in a United States spaceship, one American would take a Soyuz.

"To our SpaceX colleagues, bravo on a magnificent moment in spaceflight history and on the start of a new journey that has changed the face of space travel in this new era of space transportation".

Trump, who observed the launch, said the United States had regained its place as the world's leader in space, that USA astronauts would soon land on Mars, and that Washington would soon have "the greatest weapons ever imagined in history". "Without further ado, we would like to welcome you aboard capsule 'Endeavour", he added. Crew Dragon evolved from an earlier design, called Dragon 1, which launched 20 times on missions to deliver cargo to the ISS between May 2012 and March 2020. SpaceX and Boeing were both selected for NASA's commercial crew program to wean the agency off its dependence on Russia's Soyuz to fly astronauts after the shuttle program was retired.

When it returns to Earth, the Crew Dragon can't simply land on a runway like the space shuttle.

They will join USA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the ISS. "I know they're very, very excited".

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence flew in for the launch attempt for the second time in four days.

The president said the astronauts aboard the SpaceX craft had now joined "the ranks of just seven prior American astronauts who have made the perilous maiden voyage to test a new class of spacecraft".

"They [Roscosmos] believe in the partnership and so I think it's going to remain strong", Bridenstine said.

At the conclusion of the mission, Behnken and Hurley will board Crew Dragon, which will then autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter Earth's atmosphere. Upon splashdown off Florida's Atlantic coast, the crew will be picked up by the SpaceX recovery ship and returned to the dock at Cape Canaveral.

"I think it was an argument that the return is more risky in some ways than the ascent, so in order to declare victory yet, we need to bring them home safely [and] make sure that we're doing everything we can to minimize that risk of reentry and return", Musk said.

"This is an incredible time to be at Nasa ... new vehicles to be flown, continuing missions in lower earth orbit and then to the moon and Mars". Behnken was the first to enter the space station.

Bridenstine, at the press conference, recalled the unifying effect NASA has on the nation during the unrest in the late 1960s as the agency sent astronauts to the moon.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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