Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday (November 11) and docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with the orbiting laboratory to begin a six-month science mission.
The rendezvous came about 21 hours after the team and its capsule were launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday (November 10) night, following a string of weather delays that postponed the liftoff for a week and a half.
The docking took place about 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT) while the Crew Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endurance, and the space station were flying about 260 miles (420 km) above the eastern Caribbean Sea, according to NASA.
The Endurance crew consists of three American NASA astronauts – flight commander Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and mission specialist Kayla Barron, 34 – as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, a mission specialist from the European Space Agency.
On arrival, the crew took inventory, conducted standard leak checks and pressurized the space between the spacecraft in preparation for opening the hatch to the space station about two hours later.
A live NASA video feed from the station showed the new arrivals floating headfirst through a padded passageway from their capsule into the orbiting outpost.
They were welcomed aboard with hugs from the three current space station occupants – Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who shared a Soyuz flight with his Roscosmos crewmates to the complex.
The space station, spanning the size of an American football field end to end, has been continuously occupied since November 2000, operated by an international partnership of five space agencies from 15 countries.
An international crew of at least seven people typically lives and works aboard the platform while traveling 5 miles (8 km) per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes.