The first commercial spacecraft to carry astronauts to orbit, SpaceX's Crew Dragon, successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on May 31, after a 19-hour trip from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the astronauts are now safely onboard. The event marks the first time in nine years since a rocket launched from American soil, and the first astronauts ever delivered to the ISS via a private spacecraft.
The two astronauts, Robert "Bob" Behnken and Doug Hurley, are both veterans of the Space Shuttle missions, the Space Shuttle Atlantis being the last crewed mission to leave US soil in July 2011. They join ISS Commander Christopher Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner as members of Expeditions 63.
"It's been a real honor to be just a small part of this nine-year year endeavor since the last time United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station," Doug Hurley, commander of the Dragon capsule, said.
Ahead of docking, they took watchers on a tour of the capsule, before revealing – as is tradition for astronauts to name their capsule – its new name is Endeavor, after the Space Shuttle they both had their first flights on.
"I know most of you, at SpaceX especially, know it as 'Capsule 206,' but I think all of us thought that maybe we could do a little bit better than that," Hurley said. "So without further ado, we would like to welcome you aboard capsule 'Endeavour.'"
After climbing through the hatch onto the ISS the astronauts took their expedition photo and answered questions from NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine about the flight, whether they slept (a good 7 hours apparently), and how it flew.
“Dragon’s a slick vehicle,” Behnken said.
“We couldn’t be happier about the performance,” Hurley added.
The three astronauts currently in space will hold a news conference at 11.15 am EDT today discussing how the initial and critical phase of this mission unfolded, which you can watch on NASA TV and on the space agency social channels.
You can watch the stunning historic footage of the launch, the astronauts' flight, and their arrival at the ISS here.
The two new ISS members are expected to be in space for a few months, possibly until the end of August when four more astronauts are expected to launch to the ISS. Those four will also travel on a Space X Crew Dragon. Space X is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, developing rockets and capsules to reduce costs accessing low-Earth Orbit. Boeing is the other private company involved, and they will get to test their spacecraft next year.