© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission, which includes NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, Sultan Al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, departs for the front launch pad the launch to the International Space Sta
By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule arrived safely at the International Space Station (ISS) early on Friday, carrying two U.S. astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates to begin a six-month science mission.
The autonomously flying spacecraft dubbed Endeavor docked with the space station shortly after 1:40 a.m. EST (0640 GMT) on Friday, nearly 25 hours after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, in Florida.
The pairing was confirmed as the ISS and the capsule flew in tandem at 17,500 miles per hour (28,164 km/h) some 250 miles (240 km) above Earth across the coast of East Africa, according to a NASA live broadcast of the rendezvous.
The four-member team has been tasked with conducting more than 200 experiments and technology demonstrations aboard the space station, ranging from research on growing human cells in space to controlling combustible materials in microgravity.
Some of the research will help pave the way for future long-duration human expeditions to the Moon and beyond as part of NASA’s Artemis program, its successor to Apollo, the US space agency said.
The ISS crew is also responsible for performing maintenance and repairs on board the station, and preparing for the arrival and departure of other astronauts and cargo payloads.
Designated Crew 6, the mission marks the sixth long-duration ISS team SpaceX has flown for NASA since the private rocket company founded by billionaire Elon Musk began sending American astronauts into orbit in May 2020. Musk is CEO of electric car maker Tesla (NASDAQ:) and social media platform Twitter.
The final crew was led by Stephen Bowen, 59, a former US Navy submarine officer who spent more than 40 days in orbit as a veteran of three space shuttle flights and seven spacewalks . NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg, 37, an electrical engineer, computer expert and designated commercial aviator, was on his first spaceflight.
The Crew 6 mission was also notable for its inclusion of United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, 41, the second person from his country to fly into space and the first to launch from American soil as part of the a long-lived space station team.
Rounding out the four-man Crew 6 is Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, 42, who, like Alneyadi, is an engineer and spaceflight rookie assigned as a mission specialist for the team.
Fedyaev is the second cosmonaut to fly aboard a US spacecraft under a new rideshare agreement signed in July by NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, despite heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over the the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Upon arrival, the crew prepared to perform a series of standard leak checks and pressurize the passage between the capsule and the ISS before they could open the hatch to the interior of the space station.
The Crew 6 team will be welcomed aboard the space station by seven current occupants of the ISS – three NASA crew members, including Commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, the first Native American woman to fly in space, as well only three Russians and one Japanese astronaut.
These seven are expected to complete their mission and leave the space station this month. Four will return in the SpaceX Dragon they launched into orbit in October, and three more will return home in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft flown empty to the ISS last week to replace the one that caused a coolant leak. while docked at the station in December.