WASHINGTON (AFP) – A recycled SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with four astronauts docked with the International Space Station (ISS) early Saturday (April 24), the third time Mr Elon Musk’s company has safely delivered humans to the orbital outpost.
The spacecraft named Endeavour, piloting itself autonomously, began docking at 5.08am Eastern time (0908 GMT) above the south Indian Ocean. The process was completed around 10 minutes later.
“Hard capture complete, welcome Crew-2,” said US astronaut Shannon Walker, current commander of the ISS.
“Thanks Shannon, we’re glad to be here,” replied Endeavour’s commander, US astronaut Shane Kimbrough. The crew will begin boarding after 7.15am (1115 GMT) once the hatches are opened.
The Crew-2 mission, which includes the first European, Mr Thomas Pesquet of France, blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida before dawn on Friday, around 23 hours earlier.
Endeavour first flew to the ISS on the Demo-2 mission in May 2020, ending almost a decade of US reliance on Russia for rides to the ISS following the end of the Space Shuttle era.
It was the first time a capsule has been reused for crewed spaceflight and the mission also featured a reused rocket, accomplishing key cost-saving goals of Nasa’s partnerships with private industry.
Two Crew Dragons are now parked side by side at the ISS, underscoring hard-charging SpaceX’s position as the US space agency’s primary transport provider.
Mr Musk has made no secret of his push to drive humanity onwards to the Moon and Mars, and told a post-launch press conference: “I think we’re at the dawn of a new era of space exploration.”
The arrival of the latest space quartet – which also includes American Megan McArthur and Japan’s Akikho Hoshide – will bring the number of people on the station to 11.
That’s two shy of the record of 13 set in 2009.
Major step for Europe
The mission is also a major milestone for Europe, which named the mission “Alpha” after the star system Alpha Centauri.
“This is really the golden era for us in