1 of 6 | The crew of SpaceX's Dragon capsule Endeavour, seen in black shirts, boarded the International Space Station on Saturday, boosting the population of the orbiting laboratory to 11 temporarily. Photo courtesy of NASA
ORLANDO, Fla., April 24 (UPI) -- The four astronauts aboard Crew-2 Dragon capsule Endeavour entered the International Space Station on Saturday morning, more than 26 hours after being launched from Florida.
The arrival boosted space station occupancy temporarily to 11, one of the highest numbers in history and the most since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. The record was set in 2009 with 13 people on board.
The docking of Endeavour, completed at 5:22 a.m. EDT, marked the first time two capsules from Elon's Musk's SpaceX were attached to the orbiting laboratory. The capsule Resilience is scheduled to depart from the space station Wednesday.
With the largest crews on the space station since the shuttle era, research will advance, Steve Jurczyk, NASA's acting administrator, told the assembled astronauts during a welcoming ceremony.
"I'm just really excited for this ... new era for ISS and all that you have and will be able to accomplish, so thank you," Jurczyk said during a call to the space station after docking.
The large crew became the first in 20 years to include representatives from the United States, Europe, Japan and Russia at the same time, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet said.
"I've never seen so many astronauts on board," Pesquet said. "I've never seen so many different spacecraft on board and I think it's a tribute to how strong the program is going."
The docking also was the first time a reused Crew Dragon carrying people docked at the space station, and the first time such a spacecraft docked twice there. Endeavour also carried astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley there in May.
"Welcome to the International Space Station, we're so excited to have you aboard," NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, the space station commander, told the new arrivals after docking.
"Glad to be here. We'll see you in a few minutes," Crew-2 commander and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough replied.
The Endeavour was launched on a reused Falcon 9 rocket at 5:49 a.m. EDT Friday. It initially made contact with the space station at 5:08 a.m. EDT Saturday while over the South Indian Ocean.
Kimbrough, 53, joins mission pilot Megan McArthur, 49, of NASA; Pesquet, 43, of the European Space Agency; and Akihito Hoshide, 52, of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, as the new crew members aboard.
The docking was robotic, as the Endeavour matched the space station's orbital velocity of more than 17,000 mph over the Indian Ocean.
In the next few days, Walker will hand over command of the space station to Hoshide, as she and the three astronauts from Crew-1 and the Resilience prepare to depart, NASA public affairs officer Gary Jordan said during a live broadcast Saturday.
After six months of science and maintenance work, NASA plans to bring the Crew-2 astronauts home no earlier than Oct. 31 to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, according to SpaceX.
From left to right, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., on November 8. Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA | License Photo