Old SpaceX capsule delivers new crew to space station

In this image made from NASA TV, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, left, approaches to the international space station, Saturday, April 24, 2021. The recycled SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts has arrived at the International Space Station, a day after launching from Florida.
(NASA via AP)

A recycled SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, the third high-flying taxi ride in less than a year for Elon Musk’s company.

The Dragon capsule docked autonomously with the orbiting outpost more than 260 miles (420 kilometers) above the Indian Ocean, a day after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The new arrivals—representing the U.S., France and Japan—will spend six months at the space station. They’ll replace four astronauts who will return to Earth in their own Dragon capsule Wednesday.

It was the first time two SpaceX crew Dragons were parked there at the same time—practically side by side.

“We are so excited to have you aboard,” radioed the space station’s commander, Shannon Walker.

Although this was SpaceX’s third crew flight for NASA, it was the first to use a vehicle that’s flown before, an essential part of Musk’s push to the moon and Mars. The Dragon capsule was used for SpaceX’s first crew launch last May, while the Falcon rocket soaring Friday hoisted crew two in November.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur—the commander and pilot of the returning Dragon—monitored their capsule’s flat screen computers as the space station loomed ever larger. They could have taken control if necessary, but the autonomous system did its job, much like a self-driving car.

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