The team will replace four astronauts due to leave in early May, with Italian Samantha Cristoforetti becoming the first European woman to take command of the space station.
Four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the European Space Agency, arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday and docked their SpaceX capsule, two days after the last crew to leave the orbital outpost returned to Earth.
Crew Dragon capsule rendezvous with the station less than 16 hours later Launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, marked one of Elon Musk’s fastest SpaceX flights to the ISS from liftoff to docking, commentators on NASA’s webcast said.
The fully automated docking took place around 7:37 p.m. Florida local time (23:37 GMT) as the Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Freedom, and the space station flew about 260 miles (420 km) above the central Pacific Ocean. , according to NASA. .
Freedom’s crew consists of three US NASA astronauts: Flight Commander Kjell Lindgren, 49; mission pilot Bob Hines, 47; and mission specialist Jessica Watkins, 33, as well as Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, 45, from the European Space Agency (ESA).
The new arrivals will join the seven existing occupants of the ISS, the four-member team they will replace (three Americans and a German ESA crewmate who will end their mission in early May), and three Russian cosmonauts.
The Freedom crew is the fourth full-fledged ISS crew NASA has launched aboard a SpaceX vehicle since the California-based rocket company began transporting astronauts for the US space agency in 2020.
Team leader Lindgren, an ER doctor and one-time flight surgeon, is making his second trip to the ISS, where he logged 141 days in orbit and performed two spacewalks in 2015.
Cristoforetti, an ESA astronaut and Italian Air Force jet pilot, is on her second trip to the space station and is scheduled to assume command of ISS operations during the team’s six-month stint, becoming the first European woman in that position.
Watkins, a geologist who earned her Ph.D. studying large landslides on Mars and Earth, is on her first space mission and will become the first African-American woman to join a long-duration mission on the ISS.
Hines, also on his first trip to space, is a US Air Force fighter pilot who has logged more than 3,500 flight hours in 50 types of aircraft and flown 76 combat missions.
The ISS is the largest man-made object in space and has been continuously occupied since November 2000, thanks to a US-Russian led international consortium of five space agencies from 15 countries.
An international crew of at least seven people typically lives and works aboard the rig as it travels at 8 km (5 miles) per second, circling the Earth once every 90 minutes.