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SpaceX arrived safely

The rocket’s Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, docked overnight Monday to Tuesday at the International Space Station (ISS).

The rocket’s Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, docked overnight Monday to Tuesday at the International Space Station (ISS).

(AFP) – The first phase of the docking with the ISS, the “soft capture”, ended Tuesday at 4 am, according to images broadcast live on the internet by NASA. The second phase, or “hard capture”, took place a few minutes later. The capsule, dubbed “Resilience”, was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from the private firm SpaceX, NASA’s new means of space transport after nine years of dependence on Russia.

“It is a great day for the United States of America and for Japan,” said Jim Bridenstine, head of NASA, at a press conference. The Falcon rocket lifted off on time Monday night from the Kennedy Space Center with Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi strapped to the Dragon capsule attached to the top. “It was a hell of a launch,” said Captain Michael Hopkins once in orbit.

The first stage detached quickly before returning to land on a drone ship, SpaceX’s trademark. Twelve minutes after takeoff, at an altitude of 200 km and a speed of 27,000 km / h, the Dragon capsule detached from the second stage. SpaceX confirmed it was on the right orbit to join the ISS just over 27 hours later. “She’s operating as she should,” SpaceX number two Gwynne Shotwell confirmed at a press conference.

The astronauts, who join in the station two Russians and an American, will stay six months in the orbital laboratory, spinning around the Earth at 400 km above the oceans. This first “operational” flight follows the successful demonstration mission from May to August, during which two American astronauts were taken to the ISS and then brought back to Earth safely by SpaceX, the first private company to accomplish this technological feat.

In total, SpaceX is due to launch two other manned flights in 2021 for NASA, including in the spring with European Thomas Pesquet, and four cargo refueling missions in the next 15 months. A purely private mission, via partner Axiom Space, is also scheduled for the end of 2021. NASA has hinted that American actor Tom Cruise could go to the ISS, which has not been confirmed.

And SpaceX could also add “another fun mission, I’ll tell you about it later,” slipped Ms. Shotwell. “NASA was a disaster when we took matters into our own hands. Today, it is the most popular and advanced space center in the world, by far! ” tweeted President Donald Trump, appropriating the success of a program launched under his two predecessors. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden also praised NASA and SpaceX. “It’s proof of the power of science and of what we can accomplish by combining innovation, inventiveness and determination,” he tweeted.

A problem with the cabin temperature control system occurred but was quickly resolved. “It was just a little starting problem,” confirmed Kathy Lueders, head of human spaceflight at NASA.

When will the moon be?

It took nine years for the Americans to certify the successor of the shuttles, retired in 2011. NASA has chosen public-private partnerships. A second aircraft, Starliner, manufactured by Boeing, is behind schedule and could be operational in a year. NASA hopes to continue cooperation with Russia. She has offered seat swaps, but negotiations between NASA and Roskosmos are dragging on.

The reality is that the ties between Washington and Moscow in the space domain, one of the few where they remained good, are weakening. Breaking with more than 20 years of cooperation on the ISS, Russia will not participate in the next mini-station wanted by NASA around the Moon, the Gateway.

For Artemis, this American program to return to the Moon in 2024, NASA has signed partnerships with other space agencies, including Japan and Europe, but the future is not clear: it has not yet received from the US Congress the tens of billions of dollars needed to finalize it. And Joe Biden has not taken over the 2024 target.


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