Humans enter SpaceX Crew Dragon in space for the first time

Pablo Tucker
March 6, 2019

But the three station astronauts had front-row seats as the sleek, white vessel neatly docked and became the first American-made, designed-for-crew spacecraft to pull up in eight years.

That said, the Crew Dragon is also created to be an enjoyable ride. Shortly after the docking, Ripley was joined by the three astronauts now living on the ISS who donned precautionary oxygen masks to check the atmosphere aboard.

It's a fitting milestone given that Crew Dragon is one of two private spacecraft, along with Boeing's Starliner, that NASA has chosen to begin ferrying astronauts to space as part of its Commercial Crew program.

They rushed there from Florida after watching the Dragon rocket into orbit early on Saturday from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre.

Behnken said he was "super excited" by the Dragon successfully docking at the ISS.

"I know you heard the applause and all the clapping that went along with the accomplishment today and so it's just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here". In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.

On this occasion, we will see the crew version of Dragon approach the station at the bow and dock automatically, using a new design of connection ring.

The white, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station almost 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position. After remaining in this position for approximately 10 minutes, Dragon will be cleared to proceed to 20 meters for another brief hold, followed by docking to the ISS. They are expected to be on the capsule's crew this summer.

The capsule from the California company founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk didn't include actual crew members - except for a life-size dummy named Ripley, who was named after the lead character in the "Alien" movies.

BRIDENSTINE: We have another five days before the Dragon releases from the International Space Station and comes home safely.

Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight.

For SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment. If all goes well, Boeing would then have a launch-pad abort test no earlier than May and a crewed flight test no earlier than August.

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