The arrival of two NASA astronauts at an orbital outpost marked another important milestone in SpaceX’s first manned mission on Sunday, local time. Hurley said after the docking:
“Since the last time the U.S. spacecraft docked with the International Space Station, it’s been a great honor to be part of this nine-year effort. We must congratulate the people of SpaceX, Hawthorne and the Kennedy Space Center for their incredible efforts to achieve this goal over the past few years. “
The docking of the manned Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station demonstrates one of the most important features of the SpaceX capsule, namely its fully automated docking system. It is designed to automatically approach the International Space Station and can be locked with standardized docking ports without the need for astronaut intervention. SpaceX successfully demonstrated this capability last year, when the company sent an unmanned version of its manned Dragon spacecraft to the space station. But this time, the company needs to prove that its spacecraft can dock withmanned persons.
Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with space station
The automatic docking capability is a major upgrade for a manned Dragon spacecraft, the capsule’s predecessor, the Cargo Dragon spacecraft, which is not equipped to deliver supplies and food to the International Space Station. For all of these cargo missions, astronauts on the International Space Station must use the station’s robotic arm to grab the approaching cargo ship and take it to the docking port. The technology, known as the Berth, requires astronauts aboard the International Space Station to do a lot of work. And when a manned Dragon spacecraft arrives, its automatic docking capabilities should help free up more time for astronauts to do other things.
Astronauts aboard the manned Dragon spacecraft still have the ability to take over the spacecraft if necessary and manually control it. In fact, Benken and Hurley experimented with some manual flight functions in space, including after launch and in the process of approaching the space station. Manual driving requires interaction with the stylish internal touch-screen display of the manned Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX’s pressurized spacesuit gloves are compatible with touch screens, allowing astronauts to interact with the screen when wearing space suits if needed.
When the manned Dragon spacecraft reached 220 meters from the International Space Station, Hurley showed that he could fly the spacecraft with gloves before the automatic docking system took over. As the spacecraft slowly sails toward the International Space Station, plumes from the space station’s cameras can be seen from the capsule’s tiny thrusters.
The manned Dragon spacecraft orbited the Earth for about 19 hours before docking. After entering orbit, Benken and Hurley announced that they had named the manned Dragon spacecraft Endeavour. “There are several reasons why we chose Endeavour to name it: First, NASA, SpaceX and the United States have been making this incredible effort since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011,” Hurley said after launching into space. Second, the name is more personal to Benken and i, we both flew on the space shuttle Endeavour for the first time, and it means a lot to us to inherit the name. “
During their trip to space, Benken and Hurley slept before approaching the International Space Station to better understand what it was like to rest on a manned Dragon spacecraft. It turns out to be a comfort ingesting. “We had a good night’s sleep last night, which surprised us that the manned Dragon spacecraft was a little quieter and greener than the space shuttle,” Benken said before arriving at the International Space Station. The manned Dragon spacecraft is also equipped with space toilets to address their immediate needs.
The docking took place at around 10.29am EST on Sunday, and Benken and Hurley waited for some time before leaving the ship. The two astronauts opened the hatch at about 12:45 p.m. EST. About 30 minutes later, the astronauts stationed on the space station held a small welcome ceremony for them.
Now that Benken and Hurley have arrived at the International Space Station, it is unclear when they will return to Earth. The two are expected to stay on the International Space Station for six to 16 weeks, depending on how much NASA wants them to do on it. At some point, NASA will decide when to let them return. At that time, Benken and Hurley will re-board the manned Dragon spacecraft, diving toward swerving towards Earth.
The manned Dragon spacecraft is equipped with heat shields to protect astronauts from the heat that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft is also equipped with four parachutes designed to help it gently splash into the Atlantic Ocean, where they will be retrieved by SpaceX’s recycling ship. The grumbing journey will be part of NASA’s Commercial Astronaut program, which will be the final test of a manned Dragon spacecraft. The commercial astronaut program is the use of private spacecraft to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Both SpaceX and the manned Dragon spacecraft have both been given a respite, as the first half of the critical test mission has been completed. Astronauts will inspect the manned Dragon spacecraft docked on the International Space Station, but most of them will remain stationary, like cars parked in many places. When Benken and Hurley decide to return to Earth, all eyes will be on the manned Dragon spacecraft again.