US astronauts on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule were completing final close out procedures before entering the International Space Station after the hatch was opened between the two vessels.
The hatch opened at 1: 02 pm Eastern Time (1702 GMT) as Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were poised to cross over into the station, the first US astronauts to arrive on an American spacecraft in nine years.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying two NASA astronauts docked Sunday with the International Space Station, the first time a crewed US spacecraft has performed the feat in nearly a decade.
It was also a first for the private sector, a triumphant moment for the company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. NASA hopes to build on such partnerships to usher in a new era of space travel.
“Soft capture,” the moment when the spacecraft makes first contact and starts latching with the target vehicle, occurred at 10: 16 am Eastern Time (1416 GMT), a little ahead of schedule.
At the time, the ISS was orbiting 262 miles (422 kilometers) over the border between Mongolia and northern China.
A few minutes later, “hard capture” was achieved when the two spacecraft were joined with an airtight seal.
On board are astronauts Bob Behnkhen and Doug Hurley, both veterans of the Space Shuttle program that was shuttered in 2011.
“We copy, docking is complete,” said Hurley, the spacecraft commander.
“It’s been a real honor to be a small part of this nine year endeavor since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station.”
Next, the vestibule between the Dragon and the ISS will be pressurized and the hatch will be opened.
Behnkhen and Hurley will then join fellow NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts on board the station.
The Crew Dragon capsule had spent the previous 19 hours chasing down the station at speeds of 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kph), before carefully aligning its orbital plane and slowing down to a crawl for the delicate docking procedure.
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