Nasa astronauts arrive at space station after 19-hour journey

Yolanda Curtis
May 31, 2020

Ever since it retired the space shuttle in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take US astronauts to and from the space station.

"Let's light this candle", Hurley, the mission commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3:22 pm (1922 GMT) from NASA's storied Launch Pad 39A.

This story will be updated throughout the day.

"It's been way too long", Jim Bridenstine, the Nasa administrator, said of the launch. Weather again threatened Saturday's launch, but cleared in time to proceed with the mission.

"I'm sure they would rather be here, given the opportunity, but hopefully they're proud of this as well". Both companies are focused on test missions, including abort system demonstrations and crew flight tests, ahead of regularly flying crew missions to the space station. Based on hardware readiness for that launch, which is now trending for a launch no earlier than August 30, Hurley and Behnken will be scheduled to return to Earth in time to allow SpaceX and NASA teams to inspect the vehicle and review data from Demo-2.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both in attendance. Tremor was going to join Earthy, a plush globe delivered to the space station on last year´s test flight of a crew-less crew Dragon.

It's a nine-minute ride to reach orbit, and then a 19-hour ride after that, NASA said.

SpaceX confirmed docking was made at 10.16am ET above the China-Mongolia border, the crew of the ISS ringing the station's bell three times in maritime tradition to signal the new arrival.

The good news comes after Wednesday's launch was scrubbed.

"It is absolutely our honor to be part of this huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business".

Just before liftoff, Hurley said, "SpaceX, we're go for launch".

Behnken and Hurley spent years training and taking part in the development of the SpaceX crew transportation system prior to today's launch.

Fuel is now being loaded into the spacecraft with less than an hour to launch time.

NASA said that liquid oxygen and RP-1, typically referred to as rocket fuel, will fill the Falcon 9 until about two minutes before liftoff.

When can I see the International Space Station today?

On board Crew Dragon were NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, the test pilots selected to be the first ever humans to fly on board SpaceX's Crew Dragon, and the first people ever to make the trip to orbit aboard a spacecraft built by a private company.

Because of the coronavirus, the astronauts were kept in quasi-quarantine for more than two months.

The east coast autonomous spaceport droneship (ASDS), launched in the Atlantic from Port Canaveral, Florida, is a modified barge outfitted with a large landing platform, station-keeping thrusters and other stabilization equipment that allow SpaceX missions to land rocket boosters at sea on the barge.

It was the first launch from USA territory in almost a decade and the first time a private firm, rather than a government space agency, has sent astronauts into orbit.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy greeted the incoming crew by ringing the ship's bell aboard the space station.

The weather forecast for Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the time of the launch includes scattered showers and thunderstorms.

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