SpaceX Crew-3 Dragon Docks With Space Station
Four astronauts boarded the International Space Station Thursday after a day-long trip inside a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX. The quartet pushed the number of people who have flown in space to more than 600, a further milestone in 2021, the busiest year for manned spaceflight in more than a decade.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Endurance, docked at the orbital lab Thursday at 6:32 p.m. EST, about 40 minutes ahead of the earlier announced schedule.
“The docking is complete, happy to be at the ISS,” said Raja Chari, the commander of Crew-3, from the capsule as he and his fellow astronauts, strapped side by side in their seats, joined the hands to celebrate.
Nearly two hours later, the hatch opened and the smiling crew members entered the space station one at a time, each wearing blue overalls. They are to remain in orbit until April 2022.
The crew includes Mr. Chari and two other NASA astronauts, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, as well as Matthias Maurer, the German astronaut representing the European Space Agency. They joined three residents already on the space station, two Russians and a NASA astronaut who is in the middle of a nearly year-long mission.
Right after boarding, Mr. Marshburn pinned official NASA astronaut badges to the uniforms of Mr. Chari, Ms. Barron and Dr. Maurer. While Mr. Marshburn is a veteran of previous astronaut missions, the other three are on their first trips to orbit.
The docking of Crew-3, the name of the mission, capped a wave of spaceflight activity this week for SpaceX and NASA, which coordinated the Monday night return of Crew-2, four other astronauts who had passed by. more than six months in space. station. The company is expected to launch another rocket on Friday, carrying satellites for its high-speed internet constellation, Starlink, into orbit.
In 2021, more people traveled to space than in any year since 2009. This trend is part of a wave led by a space tourism industry backed by billionaires and a race for the future. growing space between the United States, China and Russia.
During Crew-3’s six months on the space station, astronauts will work on more than 200 science experiments, ranging from printing fiber optics to studying the hardening of concrete in microgravity. Some of the astronauts will stick to an “improved diet for spaceflight” as part of an investigation to determine the healthiest meal plan for astronauts living in space for long periods of time. It’s one of the few scientific surveys that could help NASA researchers understand how astronauts will eat on long journeys to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
Some of the astronauts will participate in a series of spacewalks to prepare the station’s power system for the new solar panels. These panels will replace a set of aging solar panels that have powered the station since 2000 despite an expected lifespan of 15 years.
Crew-3’s launch had been delayed several times from its original Halloween launch date, but bad weather and a “minor medical issue” with one of the astronauts resulted in more delays.
“The Dragon spacecraft was a wonderful journey,” Mr. Marshburn said during a live video tour of the capsule earlier Thursday. After launching Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Crew-3 astronauts took photos of the interior of the capsule, ate snacks, and played games to pass the time, such as seeing who can do it. greater “number of turns without touching anything,” Mr. Marshburn says.
NASA’s upcoming astronaut launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will also send four astronauts, though only three have been named so far: NASA’s Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines, and Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut. They are expected to head to the space station when Crew-3 returns in April 2022.
One possibility was that the fourth astronaut would be SpaceX’s first Russian astronaut. But stalled talks between NASA and Russia, the US agency’s main partner on the space station, to arrange such a flight mean the seat will most likely be occupied by an astronaut from another country.
“We’ve been working on this deal for quite some time, and as I always say, any kind of partnership or deal has to work on both sides,” Pam Melroy, NASA deputy administrator, said in a recent interview. She and Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin took a “not very positive step,” she said at a meeting last month to secure a potential deal to fly a Russian in the part of a SpaceX mission in September 2022 in exchange for a future flight for a NASA astronaut. on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
“We just have things we need to work on,” she said.