Technology & Science

First SpaceX astronauts had 'smooth' ride to the International Space Station

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley made history as they successfully arrived on the ISS Sunday, becoming the first to do so on a commercial spacecraft.

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley docked with the station at 1:02 p.m. ET Sunday

From left to right, Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, together with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley make up Expedition 63. (NASA)

After a perfect launch on Saturday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley made history as the first astronauts to arrive at the International Space Station on a commercial spacecraft.

The pair were originally scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Wednesday, but the launch was scrubbed due to bad weather. 

It looked as though the same might happen again on Saturday — their next launch window opportunity — but the skies cleared and the pair had a picture-perfect takeoff. 

The last time Americans launched from U.S. soil was in 2011, ending the space shuttle program.

So far, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule — which the astronauts named Endeavour — appears to have performed flawlessly, docking with the ISS at 1:02 p.m. ET Sunday.

Answering questions Monday morning, the pair said they were pleased with their spacecraft. The ride, they said, was smoother than the space shuttle and perhaps more similar to those of the Apollo program using the Saturn V rocket.

"Totally different than shuttle. It was smooth, got a little rougher with the [second stage]," Hurley said. It'll be interesting to talk with the SpaceX folks to find out why it was a little bit rougher ride on the second stage than the shuttle."

Both Hurley and Behnken have flown on two past shuttle missions.

Behnken said that one of the things he was most excited about was making a phone call home. 

"It's been a long time since I launched into orbit, and I've got a little boy who got a chance to watch me do that for the first time in his life," he said. "And I just wanted to understand what his experience was and share that a little bit with him while it was still fresh in his mind."

The astronauts are now part of the Expedition 63 crew, joining commander and fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from the Russian space agency Roscosmos. 

They will be spending several months aboard the ISS, conducting tests not only on the Crew Dragon but also working alongside the rest of the crew.

The next new commercial spacecraft will be Boeing's CST-Starliner, which faced setbacks after its first uncrewed demonstration failed to reach the ISS last December

Hurley and Behnken said they're happy to see a new chapter in American launch history.

"Take a message from NASA that anything is possible," Hurley said.

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