SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission arrives at space station

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) late Wednesday.

In a blog post, the agency said that the Crew Dragon Freedom capsule’s hatch opening occurred at about 9:15 p.m. ET.

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Crew-4 includes NASA’s mission commander Kjell Lindgren, pilot Bob Hines and mission specialist Jessica Watkins, as well as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti.

The Crew-4 mission is the first launch for Hines and Watkins and the second flight for Lindgren and Cristoforetti.

It is the first NASA crew comprised of equally of men and women and Watkins – a geologist – is the first Black woman to make a long-term spaceflight.

Additionally, this marks the fifth SpaceX flight with NASA astronauts – including the 2020 Demo-2 test flight – as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew-4 is the third commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut.

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The four join the Expedition 67 crew, including NASA’s Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron, as well as ESA’s Matthias Maurer and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov and Denis Matveev.

The capsule docked at the orbiting laboratory at 7:37 pm ET, while the spacecraft was flying about 261 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

The Crew-4 astronauts launched to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:52 am ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Liftoff! The past few days at Kennedy Space Center have been inspiring and busy with the return of the Axiom crew and now the successful launch of Crew-4 astronauts to the International Space Station,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “Aboard station, Kjell, Bob, Jessica and Samantha will carry out research investigations that will help NASA prepare for longer duration stays on the Moon – and eventually Mars. These missions wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated NASA and SpaceX teams here on Earth Godspeed, Crew-4!”

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The international crew of four will spend months on the space station as part of a science expedition, research in areas like materials science, health technologies and plant science.

The number of crew aboard the ISS will only increase to 11 people for a short time; NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts depart in early May.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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