SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule, with four astronauts on board, joined the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday (24th), Elon Musk’s company’s third manned mission in the orbital laboratory.
The first phase of coupling began at 5:08 a.m. (6:08 a.m. Brasília), 424 kilometers above the southern Indian Ocean. This is evident from images broadcast live by NASA, the US space agency. The second phase took place 10 minutes later when 12 hooks were securely connected between Endeavor and the station door.
“Full capture, welcome Crew-2,” said US astronaut Shannon Walker, ISS commander.
“Thank you Shannon, we are happy to be here, see you all in a few minutes,” replied Endeavor Commander, fellow countryman Shane Kimbrough.
Two hours later, the Crew 2 team, consisting of the French Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur and the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide, posed for a photo with the seven astronauts who were already in orbital were present station.
This is the first time a SpaceX mission has transported a European astronaut to the ISS, and Thomas Pesquet praised the international collaboration that has made this possible.
“It has been 20 years since JAXA [Agência Espacial Japonesa], ESA [Agência Espacial Europeia]NASA and the Russian astronauts were in space together. So what happens today is historical, “he said.” I want to thank everyone who worked on this mission, “he added in French.
The capsule carried the third crew that SpaceX had sent to the ISS under the multi-million dollar contract NASA signed with Elon Musk’s company.
This is Endeavor’s second trip to the ISS. The first was with the Demo 2 mission in May 2020, which ended nearly a decade of US reliance on Russia to travel to the ISS after NASA ended its space shuttle program. It was the first time a capsule had been reused for manned spaceflight, and the mission also included a reused rocket that met the goals of reducing costs in Nasa’s partnerships with private industry.
Two crew dragons are now standing side by side on the ISS.
This is a huge win for Musk, founder of auto company Telsa, as SpaceX managed to monopolize NASA’s space transportation at a time when Boeing’s Starliner capsule is accumulating delays on its test flights.
Musk makes no secret of his intention to drive humanity towards the Moon and Mars, saying at a press conference after the launch on Friday, “I believe we are at the dawn of a new era in space exploration.”
The arrival of the last quartet on the ISS increases the number of people on the station to 11. The record in 2009 was 13 people.
Framework for Europe
The mission is also an important milestone for Europe, which named the mission in honor of the Alpha Centauri star system “Alpha”.
“It really is the golden age for us to study the International Space Station,” Frank De Winne, director of the ISS program at the European Space Agency (ESA), told AFP.
The next Russian-built ISS module is slated to arrive at the station in July and will include an ESA-built robotic arm that Pesquet will assist in commissioning, De Winne said.
ESA will also be a key US partner in Artemis’ return to the lunar program, providing the power and propulsion components for the Orion spacecraft, as well as the key elements for a lunar orbital station called the Gateway.
Crew-2 predicts about a hundred experiments during its six-month mission, including studying so-called “tissue chips” – small models of human organs made up of different cell types that are used to study aging immune systems, kidney function and loss of muscle mass.
In terms of the environment, on its return in the fall, Crew-2 will have received 1.5 million images of the earth, documenting phenomena such as artificial light at night, algae proliferation and the breakage of Antarctica’s ice platforms.
Another key element of the mission is to update the station’s solar energy system by installing new compact panels that open up like a giant yoga mat.