New SpaceX crew, including cosmonaut, arrives to ISS
On Thursday, October 6, a four-person SpaceX Crew Dragon crew, including the first Native American woman transported into orbit, safely docked with the International Space Station (ISS) and stepped onboard to begin a five-month science mission.
According to a NASA livestream of the docking, the rendezvous of the most recent NASA expedition to the orbiting laboratory occurred just after 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) after a 29-hour voyage to the ISS as the two vehicles circled the globe about 250 miles (420 km) above Earth off the west coast of Africa.
Wednesday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, placed the autonomously flying Crew Dragon capsule, named Endurance, into orbit.
The crew includes of two American NASA astronauts – mission commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, 45, and pilot Josh Cassada, 49 – as well as Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, 59, a four-time spaceflight veteran, and cosmonaut Anna Kikina, 38, the first Russian aboard an American spacecraft in 20 years.
Kikina, the sole female cosmonaut in active service with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, was a sign of sustained US-Russian cooperation in space despite growing tensions between Moscow and Washington over the Ukraine conflict.
Kikina joined SpaceX Crew-5 under a new ride-sharing arrangement struck in July between NASA and Roscosmos allowing the two nations to continue flying to and from the ISS on each other’s spacecraft.
Mann, the first indigenous woman NASA has deployed to space and the first woman to command a SpaceX Crew Dragon, commanded the team. Mann, a combat fighter pilot and colonel in the United States Marine Corps, is among the first batch of 18 astronauts chosen for NASA’s future Artemis missions aiming at returning humans to the moon by the end of the decade.
Mann radioed shortly after the linkup was established, “We look forward to getting to work.”
Before opening the entry gates, the Endurance crew spent about two hours executing regular procedures, such as leak checks and pressurizing the compartment between the capsule and ISS.
A live NASA camera feed showed the delighted new arrivals floating weightlessly through the cushioned passageway and into the station one by one.
Three Americans and the Italian station commander, Samantha Cristoforetti, as well as two Russians and a fourth NASA astronaut who shared a Soyuz mission to the International Space Station last month, greeted them with embraces and handshakes.
Jessica Watkins was the first African-American woman to join a long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station.
The Endurance crew was the sixth full-fledged ISS crew to fly aboard a SpaceX capsule since the private rocket company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk began delivering U.S. astronauts to space in May 2020.
SpaceX has completed eight crewed orbital missions, including non-NASA flights.
During their 150-day mission, the new arrivals will undertake more than 200 experiments, many of which will focus on medical research, ranging from 3-D “bio-printing” of human tissue to a study of bacteria cultured in microgravity.
Since 2000, the ISS, which is the length of a football field, has been constantly occupied by a U.S.-Russian cooperation that includes Canada, Japan, and 11 European nations.