Four astronauts entered the International Space Station on Thursday following a daylong journey in a spaceship created by Elon Musk’s SpaceX business, which sent them into orbit. The foursome increased the number of individuals who have travelled into space to more than 600, marking a new milestone in 2021, which will be the busiest year for human spaceflight in more than a decade.
At 6:32 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Endurance, docked with the orbiting laboratory. This was about 40 minutes ahead of the previously reported timeline.
As he and his fellow astronauts, who were belted side-by-side in their seats and linked hands in joy, Raja Chari, the Crew-3 commander, spoke from the capsule. “Docking completed, pleased to be at the I.S.S.,” he said.
The door opened over two hours later, and the crew members boarded the space station one at a time, each donning a blue jumpsuit to match the rest of the station. They will stay in orbit until April 2022, when they will return to Earth.
Mr. Chari will be joined by two other NASA astronauts, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, as well as Matthias Maurer, a German astronaut who will be representing the European Space Agency on board the spacecraft. They joined three other people already on the space station, including two Russians and a NASA astronaut who is in the midst of a nearly year-long mission to the space station.
Mr. Marshburn sewed official NASA astronaut badges to the uniforms of Mr. Chari, Ms. Barron, and Dr. Maurer shortly after they boarded the space shuttle. While Mr. Marshburn has been on previous space flights, the other three astronauts are making their maiden visits to the International Space Station.
The docking of Crew-3, as the mission is known, brought to a close a frenzy of spaceflight activity this week for SpaceX and NASA, which organised the return of Crew-2, which included four other astronauts who had spent more than six months on the International Space Station, on Monday night. An further rocket from the business is set to be launched on Friday, delivering satellites for the company’s high-speed internet network, Starlink, into orbit.
More individuals have been to space in 2021 than in any other year since 2009, according to NASA. The rise of the space tourism sector, which is financed by billionaires, and the intensification of the space race between the United States, China, and Russia are both contributing to the growth of the space tourism industry.
In order to prepare the station’s electrical system for the installation of new solar arrays, several of the astronauts will take part in a series of spacewalks. Those arrays will take the place of an old set of solar panels that have been powering the station since 2000, despite the fact that their lifespan is just 15 years.
The Crew-3 flight had already been postponed numerous times since its scheduled launch on Halloween, but severe weather and a “small medical concern” involving one of the astronauts caused more postponements.
In addition to NASA’s next astronaut launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, NASA’s next astronaut launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will also transport four astronauts, albeit only three have been identified so far: Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines of NASA, as well as Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. In April 2022, they are slated to go on a mission to the International Space Station around the time of Crew-3’s return.
One possibility had been that the fourth astronaut would be the first Russian astronaut passenger to fly on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. However, because of a stalemate in negotiations between NASA and Russia, the United States’ primary partner on the space station, it seems probable that the seat will be filled by an astronaut from a different nation.