CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — They’ll call it home sweet home until Spring of 2021. SpaceX’s newly launched capsule with four astronauts — two with Texas ties — arrived Monday at the International Space Station.
The Dragon capsule pulled up and docked late Monday night, following a 27-hour, completely automated flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The linkup occurred 262 miles above Idaho.
“Oh, what a good voice to hear,” space station astronaut Kate Rubins called out when the Dragon’s commander, Mike Hopkins, first made radio contact.
“We can’t wait to have you on board,” she added after the two spacecraft were latched together.
This is the second astronaut mission for SpaceX. But it’s the first time Elon Musk’s company delivered a crew for a full half-year station stay. The two-pilot test flight earlier this year lasted two months.
The three Americans and one Japanese astronaut will remain at the orbiting lab until their replacements arrive on another Dragon in April. And so it will go, with SpaceX — and eventually Boeing — transporting astronauts to and from the station for NASA.
This regular taxi service got underway with Sunday night’s launch.
Hopkins and his crew — pilot Victor Glover Jr., Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi — join two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan. Glover, whose parents live in Prosper, Texas is the first African-American to move in for a long haul. A space newcomer, Glover was presented his gold astronaut pin Monday.
The four named their capsule Resilience to provide hope and inspiration during an especially difficult year for the whole world. They broadcast a tour of their capsule Monday, showing off the touchscreen controls, storage areas and their zero gravity indicator: a small plush Baby Yoda.
Houston-born Walker said it was a little tighter for them than for the two astronauts on the test flight. “We sort of dance around each other to stay out of each other’s way,” she said.
For Sunday’s launch, NASA kept guests to a minimum because of coronavirus, and even Musk had to stay away after tweeting that he “most likely” had an infection. He was replaced in his official launch duties by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, who assured reporters he was still very much involved with Sunday night’s action, although remotely.
As they prepared for the space station linkup, the Dragon crew beamed down live window views of New Zealand and a brilliant blue, cloud-streaked Pacific 250 miles below.
“Looks amazing,” Mission Control radioed from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
“It looks amazing from up here, too,” Hopkins replied.
Meantime, pilot Victor Glover’s parents are cheering him on from Prosper, Texas.
“I can’t express it,” Victor Glover, Sr. said. “I’ve said several times proud is an understatement. It’s hard to put it into words. I mean when those rockets lit and the rockets started lifting off, I was just in awe. My mask ended up soaking wet with the tears that were flowing.”
“I was crying and praying,”Jennette Glover said “Crying and praying.”
“It was a very emotional experience,” Victor Sr. said. “It still is just knowing he’s up there now.”
For Victor Glover, Jr., the dream of becoming an astronaut formed at an early age.
“He had the chance to see a shuttle flight and he was really, really intrigued by that,” Victor Sr. said.
With the support of his family and guided by his Christian faith, he joined the Navy in college and went on to become a Navy commander, naval aviator and test pilot. Graduating from the U.S Air Force Test Pilot School.
“He had this intense focus and everything he started doing,” Victor Sr. said. “His whole purpose in doing that was to become an astronaut.”
In 2013, his dream came true. He became an astronaut and now, he has made history.
“He’s going to ultimately be the first African-American to spend a long duration on the International Space Station,” Victor Sr. said. “It’s overwhelming. It really is. He truly is an example of really chasing after your dreams, being willing to put in the hard work and determination.”
Erin Jones contributed to this report.