SpaceX crew including Russian cosmonaut picked up on board space station before 5-month mission

A four-member SpaceX Crew Dragon crew, including a Russian astronaut and the first Native American woman to be put into orbit, docked safely with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday. and boarded the ship to begin a five-month science mission.

Latest rendezvous NASA the expedition to the orbiting lab arrived just after 5 hours EDT (2:30 a.m. IST) after a 29-hour flight arrived ISS as the two vehicles circled the globe about 420 kilometers from Earth off the west coast of Africa, according to a NASA web bulletin about the docking.

The autonomous Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Endurance, was launched into orbit Wednesday atop a SpaceX The Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The crew included two American NASA astronauts – flight commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, 45, and pilot Josh Cassada, 49 – as well as Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, 59, a veteran of four previous spaceflight, and cosmonaut Anna Kikina, 38, the first Russian to board an American spacecraft in 20 years.

The inclusion of Kikina, the only female astronaut on active duty with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, is a sign that US-Russian cooperation continues in space despite escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington. about the war in Ukraine.

Kikina joined the SpaceX Crew-5 flight under a new flight-sharing agreement signed in July between NASA and Roscosmos that allows the two nations to continue flying each other’s spacecraft to and from the ISS.

The team is led by Mann, the first indigenous woman NASA sent to space and the first woman to take the command of the SpaceX Dragon crew. Mann, a US Marine colonel and fighter pilot, was also among the first 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions to return humans to the moon by the end of the decade. this century.

“We look forward to working,” Mann radioed shortly after the link was complete.

Upon arrival, the Endurance crew spent nearly two hours conducting a series of standard procedures, such as checking for leaks and regulating cabin pressure between the capsule and the ISS, before opening the doors.

A live NASA video feed shows the smiling newcomers hovering first through the padded walkway, one by one into the station.

They were greeted with hugs and handshakes by the four-member team they were replacing – three Americans and the Italian station commander, Samantha Cristoforetti – as well as two Russians and a fourth NASA astronaut. shared a Soyuz flight to the ISS last month.

“A lot of people are working hard to ensure that our conventional manned space exploration continues to survive and thrive. We are living proof of this,” Kikina said. said in a Russian comment translated into English through a mission control interpreter during a reception recap.

Crew Endurance is marked as the fifth official ISS team NASA has flown on a SpaceX capsule since the private rocket venture was founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk began sending US astronauts into space in May 2020.

SpaceX has carried out eight crewed missions to orbit in all, including non-NASA flights.

The newcomers are expected to conduct more than 200 experiments during their 150-day mission, many focusing on medical research from 3-D “bioprinting” of human tissue to research. Study of bacteria cultured in microgravity.

The ISS, which stretches the length of a football field, has been continuously occupied since 2000, run by a US-Russia partnership that includes Canada, Japan and 11 countries Europe.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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