Latest astronauts welcomed aboard ISS

·3-min read

Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, have arrived at the International Space Station to begin a six-month science mission.

The successful docking between their SpaceX capsule and the ISS came about 21 hours after the team were launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday night.

A string of weather delays had previously postponed liftoff for a week and a half.

Docking took place while the Crew Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endurance, and the space station were flying about 420km above the eastern Caribbean Sea, according to NASA.

The Endurance crew consists of three American NASA astronauts - flight commander Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn (61) and mission specialist Kayla Barron (34) - as well as 51-year-old German astronaut Matthias Maurer, a mission specialist from the European Space Agency.

On arrival, the crew took inventory, conducted standard leak checks and pressurised the space between the spacecraft in preparation for opening the hatch to the space station about two hours later.

A live NASA video feed from the station showed the new arrivals floating headfirst through a padded passageway from their capsule into the orbiting outpost.

They were welcomed aboard with hugs from the three current space station occupants - Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, and NASA's Mark Vande Hei.

Second-in-command of the SpaceX flight, Marshburn is a medical doctor and former NASA flight surgeon who has logged two previous trips to the ISS and four spacewalks.

Maurer, a materials science engineer, was making his debut spaceflight, as were Chari, a US Air Force pilot, and Barron, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer.

Shortly after coming aboard, Marshburn pinned astronaut wings to the collars of his three rookie colleagues amid handshakes and smiles.

Chari and Barron also are among the first group of 18 astronauts selected for NASA's upcoming Artemis missions, aimed at returning humans to the moon later this decade, more than half a century after the Apollo lunar program ended.

"We all loved the ride up here," Chari said during a welcoming ceremony webcast from the station.

"It was way smoother than we could have imagined."

The SpaceX Dragon has delivered more than 1800kg of hardware and research equipment to the ISS, NASA said.

The astronauts arriving on Thursday are the third fully fledged operational crew NASA and SpaceX have flown together to the space station, after a two-person test run in May 2020.

Crew 2 returned safely to earth from the space station on Monday with a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida bringing to an end a record 199 days in orbit.

SpaceX, the rocket company formed in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla, has logged 15 human spaceflights in 17 months, including its astro-tourism launch in September of the first all-civilian crew sent to earth orbit without professional astronauts.

An international crew of at least seven people typically lives and works aboard the ISS, travelling 8km per second and orbiting earth about every 90 minutes.

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