Less than 12 hours after launching from the Kennedy Space Center, the four astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour were forced to prepare for the worst just as they were about to get some sleep.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station was launched at 09:49 UTC carrying NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The four-person crew of Endeavour, which docked to the orbiting laboratory safely 24 hours after liftoff, will remain aboard the station for six months.
Although the crew arrived at their destination safely, the journey was not without incident.
At 17:24 UTC on April 23, the crew received a transmission from SpaceX Lead Space Operations Engineer Sarah Gillis stating a late-breaking space debris conjunction had been identified. Gillies instructed the crew to proceed with suit donning and securing themselves in their seats. The crew were instructed that the conjunction event was expected to occur at 17:43 UTC.
Approximately 20 minutes later and just minutes before the expected conjunction, Gillis received and relayed the information to the crew of Endeavour that the piece of unidentified space debris was farther away than originally anticipated.
A few minutes later the crew was given the all-clear to remove their suits and continue preparing for bed, a feat that was likely made more difficult after the adrenaline rush of the last half hour.
Crew Dragon Endeavour successfully docked with the station’s Earth-facing Harmony module docking port at 09:08 UTC on April 24. The crew of Endeavour joined the three-person crew of Soyuz MS-18 and the four-person crew of the Crew Dragon Resilience, which is expected to depart from the station following its six-month mission to return to Earth.
The 11 astronauts from four countries currently aboard the station represent one of its largest crews in the orbiting laboratory’s 20-year history.