NASA astronauts board International Space Station in historic SpaceX mission

Andrew Cummings
June 1, 2020

Today at around 10:30 AM EDT (7:30 AM PDT), SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will dock with the International Space Station, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the pair chosen for the mission due to their experience and expertise flying new vehicles, reported that the spacecraft was performing well.

Finally, the Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, 450km off the coast of Florida, where recovery ships will take the astronauts to safety and retrieve the capsule.

Crew Dragon then made a "hard capture", which involved using 12 latches to create an air-locked seal between Behnken and Hurley's crew cabin and their entrance to the space station and linked up Crew Dragon's power supply to the ISS.

Following the docking, the two astronauts - Douglas Hurley, 53, and Robert Behnken, 49 - will perform tests on the Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks alongside ISS crew, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

That included renovating Launch Complex 39A, which NASA leased to SpaceX for use on Falcon launches, the first of which took place from that pad in February 2017.

It's a burgeoning, new era in spaceflight.

By contrast, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine credited Charles Bolden, who led the agency during the Obama administration, for his work backing the early commercial crew program.

"I really think it's a demonstration of the trust they had both in the NASA team and the SpaceX team to get them safely to orbit", he said.

"In that vein, let's just say, for those about to launch, we salute you". "It's been 18 years working towards this goal".

They will join USA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the ISS.

"We chose Endeavour for a few reasons, because of this incredible endeavour Nasa, SpaceX and the United States have been on since the end of the shuttle program back in 2011".

While a monumental achievement for NASA and SpaceX, which was founded in 2002 and has very public ambitions of one day launching crewed missions all the way to Mars, there remains some ways to go before Demo-2 is hailed a total success. "We're going to stay vigilant until we bring them safely home".

SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched two Americans into orbit from Florida on Saturday in a landmark mission marking the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years.

The mission comes amid the coronavirus crisis and protests in multiple U.S. cities over the death of a black man in Minneapolis while he was being arrested by a white police officer.

NASA has yet to decide how long Hurley and Behnken will spend at the space station, somewhere between one and four months.

President Donald Trump held up America's space effort as a unifying endeavor for a divided nation after becoming only the third sitting president to witness the launch of American astronauts in person.

The Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, and the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.

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