SpaceX Dragon crew capsule docks at International Space Station

Pablo Tucker
June 1, 2020

Trump spoke inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center a little more than 90 minutes after the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board, reached orbit in the first human orbital spaceflight from the United States in almost nine years.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken reported that the capsule was performing beautifully, as they closed in for the docking. SpaceX and NASA will determine the duration of their stay after they assess the condition of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in orbit as well as the Crew Dragon that will fly the Crew-1 mission this summer.

"This is a program that demonstrates the success when you have continuity of objective going from one administration to the next", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a recent preflight briefing.

"What Elon Musk has done for the American space program is he has brought vision and inspiration that we hadn't had" since the shuttle's retirement, Bridenstine said. "Bob, Doug, on behalf of the entire launch team, thanks for flying with Falcon 9 today".

After making initial contact with the ISS, Crew Dragon went through a series of steps to further mate the spacecraft with its port - including linking power and creating an air-locked seal - before first of two hatches were opened.

The New York Times reports they'll be tasked with helping USA astronaut Christopher Cassidy, who is already on the ISS after hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Behnken and Hurley are expected to remain on board the space station for one to three months.

Behnken and Hurley join NASA's Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the ISS. "When I first came into office, three and a half years ago, NASA had lost its way, and the excitement, energy and ambition, as nearly everybody in this room knows, was gone", he said.

Actually, it was two past presidents who put NASA on the path to this SpaceX launch, though it would be hard to know that from listening to the post-launch speeches. "When I think of comfort for the astronauts, it's really every aspect of how you could interact with the spaceship that comes to mind", says John Federspiel.

This mission marks SpaceX's final test flight of its crewed system before it's certified for fully operational missions to the station.

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.

The Space Station is 250 miles above the earth and travels at the incomprehensible speed of 17,500 MPH. "We designed it to be two-fault tolerant, which means that any two things could fail, so I could lose a flight computer and a thruster and I could still bring the crew home safely".

"The same spirit of American determination that sends our people into space will conquer this disease on Earth [that] should've never happened." he said. Instead of owning and operating the spacecraft itself, Bridenstine said, the future of the agency will lie with partnering with the growing commercial space sector, as it has with SpaceX.

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