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Astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, completing a day-long voyage to rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory after liftoff from Florida.
The capsule made first contact with the space station at 9:16 a.m. ET on Sunday, and its hatches are expected to open about two hours later.
The astronauts include NASA’s Jasmin Moghbeli, the mission commander; Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen from the European Space Agency; Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA; and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov of Roscosmos.
The four lifted off Saturday at 3:27 a.m. ET aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and spent the final day free-flying aboard the 13-foot-wide capsule slowly atop the space station to maneuver.
Moghbeli, Mogensen, Furukawa and Borisov join the seven astronauts already in the orbiting laboratory.
The Crew-7 astronauts will spend about five days taking over operations from the SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts who have been on the space station since March.
The new team then bids farewell to the SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts, who will return home in the coming days aboard their spacecraft, the Crew Dragon Endeavor.
This mission is the eighth flight NASA and SpaceX are conducting as part of the agency’s commercial crew program, which has been ferrying astronauts to the space station since SpaceX’s first manned mission in 2020.
During their stay on the space station, which is expected to last around 180 days, the Crew-7 astronauts will go through a series of experiments. The research includes examining the potential risk of bacterial and fungal proliferation during human-led space missions. The team will analyze whether the microorganisms can be ejected from the space station’s vents and spat into the vacuum of space.
Another ESA project will study how sleeping in the microgravity environment differs from sleeping on Earth by analyzing astronauts’ brainwaves as they fall asleep. Another experiment will look at the formation of biofilms in the space station’s wastewater, which could be key to finding better ways to recycle water for drinking and sanitation purposes in space. (Yes, astronauts have long used recycled sweat and urine to drink and shower on the station.)
Furukawa, one of only two crew members to fly into space, said during a news conference this month that he looks forward to re-inhabiting the microgravity environment on the space station and engaging in scientific activities, including research leading to the development new medicines and projects that could shed light on how humans might one day explore the moon.
Mogensen is the other space veteran on this mission. NASA’s Borisov and Moghbeli are both in their first place.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember,” Moghbeli said during a July 25 news conference. “One of the things I look forward to the most is looking back at our beautiful planet. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has flown has said it was a life changing perspective.”