SpaceX Makes Historic Landing At The International Space Station

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have successfully entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a 19 hour long journey on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The two men docked at the ISS around 10 a.m this past Sunday morning after initially launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. 

The two are expected to remain docked for one to three months with a maximum time of 110 days. The Crew Dragon made initial contact with the docking port at the ISS early Sunday when the men did a “soft capture” of the capsule; which basically means initial contact. They then went on to do a “hard capture” that involved using twelve latches to create an air-locked seal between their crew cabin and the entrance to the space station itself. 

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They made their soft capture around 10 a.m on Sunday but weren’t actually able to enter the station until around 1:15 p.m. due to the lengthy “hard capturing” process. Fellow NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner greeted both Behnken and Hurley when they finally entered the station, as the three of them have been docked there since April. 

“I couldn’t be happier about the performance of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. We were able to sleep for a few hours, share meals and use the on board toilet during our journey. The Dragon was a slick vehicle, and we had good airflow, so we had an excellent, excellent evening,” Hurley said in a call to mission control located in Houston, Texas. 

While on their way to the ISS, both Behnken and Hurley gave a virtual tour of the new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft using cameras they brought with them. While the vehicle was en route, the two took viewers around the capsule where NASA later uploaded the video to their official YouTube page. In the video the two announced that they decided on their own name for the vehicle: Endeavour.

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“The astronauts picked that name for a few reasons, Hurley said on NASA and SpaceX’s webcast. On one hand, the name honors the years-long endeavor that was returning human spaceflight to the United States after the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. And it honors the longtime friendship that Hurley and Behnken have shared, and their histories with NASA: Both astronauts began their spaceflight careers with missions aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. (That vehicle’s namesake was an 18th century ship commanded by British explorer James Cook — hence the British spelling of Endeavour,” (CNN reports)

The launching and docking of Endeavour is a major milestone for the spacecraft itself. SpaceX itself has been working on this goal since it was originally founded in 2002 so when the two officially made contact with the ISS, those down at mission control obviously had to celebrate. 

When NASA originally called upon SpaceX, a private company, to design vehicles for space travel to the ISS after the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, they received a lot of backlash. While NASA and SpaceX have worked together multiple times in the past, SpaceX was never given the responsibility of creating original designs, developments, and testing facilities for human-related space travel vehicles, so experts were worried. 

However, after this initial success, it’s likely that NASA and SpaceX will continue working with one another well into the future. In fact, the two recently announced that they’re ambitiously hoping to put people on the moon by 2024.