After 20 hours of flight, the US astronauts Bob Behnken and Douglas Hurley reach their destination: they are now to remain on the ISS for several weeks.
After about 20 hours of flight with the Crew Dragon– Space capsule two US astronauts have arrived at the ISS space station. The capsule with space travelers Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board docked on the ISS on Sunday, as announced by the US space agency Nasa and the private space company Space-X. The docking maneuver on Sunday went without problems, said Nasa. Hurley and Behnken were ready to take control manually if there were problems with the docking maneuver, but the capsule automatically docked.
Behnken and Hurley will remain on board the ISS for at least one month – together with their colleagues already stationed there, the US space traveler Christopher Cassidy and the two Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Iwanischin and Iwan Wagner, who are due to return to Earth in October. Behnken and Hurley are due to go back at the beginning of August at the latest because the capsule has yet to undergo final tests after the Atlantic watering. According to current plans, the first regular crew flight from Space-X should start on August 30 to the ISS, then with four astronauts who will remain on the space station for about half a year.
The Crew Dragon was on Saturday with one Falcon-9Missile launched from Cape Canaveral Space Center in Florida. It was the first time in nine years that astronauts launched their ISS from the United States. Since the end of the space shuttle flights in 2011, NASA has had no access to the ISS. In recent years, US astronauts have had to fly with their Russian colleagues in the Soyuz. At around 80 million euros per flight in a Russian Soyuz capsule, this was not only expensive, but also scratched the national pride of the United States.
The German astronaut Gerst welcomed his colleagues “welcome back to space”
The start on Saturday marked another historic premiere: It was the first manned launch of NASA in collaboration with a private space company. Boeing and Space-X had won the tender from NASA, which plans to charter its capsules as a customer in the future. Shortly after the successful launch, the first rocket stage landed safely upright on the “Of Course I Still Love You” ship in the Atlantic Ocean off the US coast. Landing and reusing rocket stages and space capsules is an important part of Space-X’s strategy.
After the successful start, Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine was relieved. “I exhale a sigh of relief, but I’m not going to party until Doug and Bob are home safely,” said Bridenstine on Saturday. “We have been planning this for so long and now we have done it. It was way too long ago. Today was just a wonderful day.” It is currently a difficult time for the United States, said Bridenstine. The country is particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and there are currently mass protests following the death of an African American by a brutal police operation in Minneapolis. He hoped, said Bridenstine, that the successful start “gives everyone the opportunity to think about humanity”.
US President Donald Trump celebrated the successful start as a “heroic act”. The start marked the “bold and triumphant return to the stars for the United States,” said Trump. SpaceX founder Elon Musk was deeply moved: “I’m really emotionally overwhelmed, it’s difficult for me to speak,” said Musk at a press conference after the start. The German astronaut Alexander Gerst welcomed his two space travel colleagues via Twitter “welcome back to space” and congratulated Space-X for the “solid performance”. The space nation Russia congratulated the United States on its successful start. “Everything has already happened in the cosmos, and it is essential to have at least two transport systems,” said the spokesman for the Roscosmos space agency, Vladimir Ustimenko, on Sunday in Moscow. “Now not only Russians will fly to the ISS, but also Americans. It’s wonderful!”