SpaceX NASA crew dock after 'slick' flight

01 Juin, 2020, 06:55 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken after boarding the International Space Station where they were welcomed by fellow astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin

Elon Musk, whose SpaceX company has just performed its first manned flight into orbit, replied to greetings from Roscosmos saying he was ready to work with Russian Federation to explore space further.

"I think it was an argument that the return is more risky in some ways than the ascent, so in order to declare victory yet, we need to bring them home safely [and] make sure that we're doing everything we can to minimize that risk of reentry and return", Musk said.

The Crew Dragon is equipped with 16 Draco thrusters that are used to manoeuvre the vehicle in orbit.

"It just might not be the same thing you'd want to use if you were suited up and trying to fly an entry or descent, for example, like we could do with the space shuttle", says Behnken. Thousands jammed surrounding beaches, bridges and towns to watch as Elon Musk's company ended a nine-year launch drought for NASA in spectacular fashion.

Boeing Co, producing its own launch system in competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100 Starliner vehicle with astronauts aboard for the first time next year.

NASA has yet to decide how long Hurley and Behnken will spend at the space station, somewhere between one and four months. But its Starliner spacecraft encountered significant problems during a test mission without crews late a year ago and had to cut that flight short.

That left SpaceX, which also had encountered problems in developing its spacecraft, in the lead to be first to launch with astronauts on board. The crew of Gemini 6 started the tradition in 1965, waking up to "Hello Dolly" by Jack Jones, according to a history complied by NASA historian Colin Fries.

The pair, veterans of two space shuttle missions each, were in quarantine for more than two weeks ahead of the flight and were regularly tested for COVID-19.

When it returns to Earth, the Crew Dragon can't simply land on a runway like the space shuttle.

In this image taken from NASA TV video the SpaceX Dragon crew capsule with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken aboard docks with the International Space Station Sunday

Behnken and Hurley went in a different direction for their wake-up call Sunday. At 4:45 a.m., the controllers on the ground played Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan", a slow, nearly mystical tune that mixes guitar and bongos and is about "taking a spaceship out to the stars", a band member once said.

"Proud of you guys and the rest of the team", Hurley added.

NASA has invested in private companies in hopes of creating a safe, reliable and cost-effective means of transporting humans to the ISS.

Since the mothballing of the USA shuttle programme in 2011 Russia's more basic and reliable Soyuz spacecraft has been exclusively responsible for transporting crews to the ISS from its Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan.

Behnken said the SpaceX capsule is a "lot different than its namesake" in that "it has touch display screens". "We are not going to be number two anywhere".

Applause could be heard from the station's downlink to mission control in Houston, Texas. "Today's launch makes clear that the commercial space industry is the future".

"Let's light this candle", Hurley, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3.22pm (1922 GMT) from NASA's storied Launch Pad 39A.

But, she said, the costs of any such mission would be so high that China - now the world's second space power in terms of launches - would need to be included. The mission was initially supposed to be launched on May 27 but was delayed due to poor weather conditions at the last minute.

Bogage reported from Washington.

US Astronauts lands in the worldwide space station
NASA has yet to decide how long Hurley and Behnken will spend at the space station, somewhere between one and four months. Behnkhen and Hurley will then join fellow NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts on board the station.

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