SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience capsule (Crew-1 flight) docked with the ISS on 17 November. Its crew of four astronauts joined the trio already aboard the station to form Expedition 64 of 7 people. A first.
SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission for NASA took off successfully from Kennedy Space Centre on 15 November at 7.27 p.m. local time in Florida (1.27 a.m. in mainland France). This is the first mission described as “operational” of the Commercial Crew Program of the American agency, i.e. responsible for taking part in crew rotation for the International Space Station (ISS).
SUCCESSFUL DOCKING FOR CREW-1
The Crew Dragon capsule, named Resilience, reached orbit twelve minutes after taking off. The first stage of the Falcon 9 launcher came back to land on a barge at sea off the Florida coast. It was specified that this stage would serve for the Crew-2 mission next year with Thomas Pesquet, the French astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA).
After a bit more than a day in orbit, Resilience docked automatically with the ISS’s Harmony module on 17 November at 5 a.m. (French time). The NASA video below summarises the journey, with a guided tour of the capsule by the crew, the rendezvous and the welcome for the four astronauts.
Thus, Shannon Walker, her two fellow Americans Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover (all NASA astronauts) and the Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi (JAXA) were welcomed into the ISS’s Harmony module by the American, Kathleen Rubins, and Russians Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov. This trio have been up there since 14 October, transported by the Russian Soyuz MS-17 ship.
On the video link with Houston, the crew was praised by Kathy Lueders, Associate Administrator of NASA, responsible for leading Human Exploration and Operations. Previously, she led the Commercial Crew Program which has, of course, supervised the operation entrusting the private sector with transporting astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX and Boeing were the two companies selected. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, was first to complete all stages of certification required by the American agency. At the end of the video, it can be seen that the Chair of the JAXA Space Agency, Hiroshi Yamakawa, sends his congratulations from Japan to the astronauts during his conversation with his countryman, Soichi Noguchi.
FIRSTS AND “BABY YODA,” STAR OF SOCIAL NETWORKS
In addition to the fact that Crew-1 is the first operational flight of the Commercial Crew Program, it signifies other firsts. Shannon Walker is the first woman aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Soichi Noguchi is the first non-American astronaut transported by such a ship. Moreover, Victor Glover is the first African-American assigned to a long-term mission aboard the International Space Station (in the past, African-Americans had been on the station, but via NASA shuttle flights and they were not members of the Expeditions, the ISS crews).
Staying with the list of firsts, Expedition 64, which brings together the trio who arrived on 14 October on Soyuz MS-17 and the Crew-1 quartet, is the first crew of the station numbering seven people. Until then the maximum was 6. It should be noted, however, that the ISS has already housed more than six and even more than seven during crew rotations and shuttle flights, but on a temporary basis. 64 is, indeed, the first Expedition of seven people.
But on the social networks, it is a soft toy who has been the “star” of the Crew-1 flight. As a mascot for the mission, it is The Child, a character from Disney+’s series The Mandalorian (which we mentioned here), and nicknamed, “Baby Yoda” since it’s a young child of the iconic Jedi Master’s species from the Star Wars saga.