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A SpaceX capsule carrying a multinational crew of astronauts docked with the International Space Station on Thursday after a 29-hour trek.
The mission, called Crew-5, is a joint operation of NASA, SpaceX and their government partners around the world, including – for the first time – Russia, despite growing tensions on the ground surrounding the invasion of Ukraine. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12 p.m. ET Wednesday.
The Crew Dragon capsule spent a day making a slow, methodical climb to the space station. And as it approached the ISS, the spacecraft, which is fully autonomous, used its small onboard thrusters to stay oriented while slipping into its docking port. It first made physical contact with the ISS at 5:01 p.m. ET.
After ensuring a vacuum seal between the SpaceX spacecraft and the ISS, the hatch that separated the capsule and the space station was opened, officially join the spaceship. Soon, the four crew members of Crew-5 will join the seven astronauts already on board the ISS. A welcome ceremony is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET.
Crew members include NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada; astronaut Koichi Wakata of JAXA, or Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and cosmonaut Anna Kikina of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
The spaceflight marks a historic moment, as Mann has become the first Native American woman to travel in space. She is also a mission commander, making her the first woman to take on such a role for a SpaceX mission.
Kikina’s participation in this flight is part of a carpooling agreement ink by NASA and Roscosmos in July. Despite the geopolitical tensions between the United States and Russia reaches a close As the war in Ukraine escalated, NASA repeatedly said its partnership with Roscosmos on the ISS was vital to continuing space station operations and the valuable scientific research conducted on board.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Sergei Krikalev, executive director of manned spaceflight programs at Roscosmos, also commented on the importance of the US-Russian partnership.
“We are just continuing what was started many years ago, in 1975 when the Apollo-Soyuz crew worked together,” Krikalev said, referring to a space encounter in 1975 that has become iconic. of post-Cold War cooperation between the United States. and Russia. “Now we continue this.”
Crew-5 astronauts will spend approximately five months in space. While there, they are expected to perform spacewalks to maintain the exterior of the space station, as well as perform over 200 science experiments.
“Experiments will include studies of how human organs feel in space, understanding fuel systems operating on the Moon, and a better understanding of heart disease,” according to a NASA statement.
This is the sixth crewed mission that SpaceX, a private company led by controversial tech billionaire Elon Musk, has performed on behalf of NASA. Program stems from $2.6 billion in funding treat only NASA and SpaceX signed nearly a decade ago part of the space agency’s effort to contract out all transportation to and from the ISS to the private sector so NASA can focus on deeper exploration of the solar system.
Aerospace giant Boeing has also signed a similar contract, although it is still working on commissioning its commercial spacecraft, the Starliner. Its first crewed flight could take place in early 2023.
Meanwhile, NASA continued to expand its partnership with SpaceX, increasing the value of their global agreement to encompass 15 total crewed missions worth over $4.9 billion.