After a 27-hour trip, three Americans and a Japanese spaceflier arrived at the International Space Station tonight for the first regular six-month tour of duty facilitated by a commercial space taxi.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which was christened Resilience, handled the docking autonomously. “Excellent job, right down the center,” NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins radioed down to ground controllers at SpaceX’s California headquarters.
“All for one, Crew-1 for all,” Japan’s Soichi Noguchi declared.
The Dragon’s four crew members floated through the hatch a couple of hours later. As he brought up the rear, Noguchi carried a Baby Yoda toy mascot, which served as the Dragon’s zero-G indicator for the Nov. 16 launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Hopkins, Noguchi and their crewmates — NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Victor Glover — were greeted with smiles and hugs by the three spacefliers on the other side of the hatch: NASA’s Kate Rubins and Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
Tonight’s arrival marked the second Crew Dragon docking at the station. Six months ago, two NASA astronauts paid a visit for a 64-day demonstration mission. But the current flight is the first regularly scheduled crew rotation, operating under full certification from NASA with clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and it’s really amazing that this is marking the start of operational crew rotation missions to the International Space Station from the Florida coast,” Hopkins said during the official welcoming ceremony. “It was an amazing ride. … The last 27 hours have gone really smooth, actually.”
The Dragon crew’s arrival chalks up a couple of firsts for the space station, which has been occupied continuously for 20 years.
Glover is the first African-American astronaut to join a long-duration crew, and the live-aboard crew has risen to seven for the first time. Because there aren’t enough private sleeping compartments to go around, Hopkins plans to bed down in the Dragon.