CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A new crew arrived Friday at the International Space Station for a six-month mission after overcoming problems with one of the capsule’s docking hooks.
The SpaceX capsule and its four astronauts had to wait 20 meters from the orbiting lab as flight controllers in California scrambled to come up with a software fix.
It’s the same problem that surfaced shortly after Thursday’s launch. While all 12 hooks on the pod appeared to be OK, the switch for one of them malfunctioned. SpaceX Mission Control urged patience and told the astronauts they could stay in this holding pattern for up to two hours.
“Teams are working to get this right, not just fast,” Mission Control said over the radio.
Minutes later, new software commands were issued and the astronauts were given the green light to proceed with the final approach and docking. Finally, the docking occurred an hour late as the capsule and space station hovered 420 kilometers above the coast of Somalia.
It was expected that it would take an hour before the hatches could be opened, the standard time for proper pressure control.
“Now let’s work on getting this hatch open so you can hug your crewmates,” NASA Mission Control said from Houston.
The newcomers include Sultan al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates, the first astronaut from the Arab world to spend an extended period of time in space. Al-Neyadi is only the second person from the UAE to be launched into orbit.
Also flying in the capsule are NASA’s Stephen Bowen, a retired Navy submariner who made three space shuttle flights, and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, an aerospace novice and former researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Andrei Fedyaev, a newcomer to the space retired from the Russian Air Force.
SpaceX launched the four astronauts for NASA early Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their flight was delayed several days by a clogged filter in an ignition fluid line.
The UAE sent its first astronaut, Hazza al-Mansoori, to the space station in 2019 aboard a Russian rocket. It had been decades since the first Arab launched in 1985 during the NASA shuttle era. The longest space flight of any of them lasted about a week.
“I have no words to express how happy I am” for al-Neyadi, al-Mansoori tweeted after the launch.
The newcomers replace two NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut who have been there since October and return next week in their own SpaceX capsule.
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