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SpaceX spacecraft arrives at the International Space Station

SpaceX spacecraft arrives at the International Space Station

(CNN) – SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, with four on board astronauts From three countries, they docked on the International Space Station on Saturday morning, thus beginning the crew’s six-month stay in space.

The mission, dubbed Crew-2, is the third manned flight by Elon Musk and the first to use fuel and craft used by the private sector.

The astronauts took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday morning and spent nearly 24 hours in orbit at more than 17,000 miles per hour, as the Crew Dragon was heading towards the International Space Station, which is orbiting 252 miles above Earth.

On Saturday morning, the capsule slowly lined up and made its anchor directly at one of the ports of the space station.

The crew consists of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbro e, Megan MacArthur, Thomas Pesquet European Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide From the Japanese space agency JAXA.

The main focus of the astronauts’ mission will be to search for “tissue chips” or “small models of human organs that contain multiple types of cells that behave very similar to how they work in the body” that NASA hopes will advance in this area. Developing drugs and vaccines, according to the space agency. This work builds on years of studying biological and other scientific phenomena aboard the International Space Station, where the microgravity environment can give scientists a better basic understanding of how something works.

Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide joined seven astronauts already on board the station, four of whom arrived in a different SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule in November. This brings the total current staff of the space station to 11, one of the largest crews the International Space Station has ever hosted. But that number will drop to seven when four of the astronauts return to Earth on April 28.

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NASA has spent more than a decade working to increase the number of personnel on board the space station for 21 years after the withdrawal of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, leaving the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as the only option to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The United States had paid Russia up to $ 90 million per seat for these flights.

For years, SpaceX worked under a fixed-price, $ 2.6 billion contract to develop its Crew Dragon spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which for the first time in space agency history delivered the construction and testing mission. A crew-capable spacecraft for the private sector.

This six-frame composite image shows the International Space Station traversing the sun at nearly 5 miles per second, on Friday April 23, 2021, as seen from Nottingham, Maryland. Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images

(Boeing is under a similar contract to develop its own capsule for the program. That capsule, called the Starliner, is still in the testing phase.)

The mission is another milestone in SpaceX’s efforts to reuse space devices to reduce the cost of space flight. Both the Crew Dragon capsule, called “Endeavor,” and the orbiting Falcon 9 rocket have flown into space before.

Although the company has reverted to propulsion engines and spacecraft dozens of times for satellite launches and charging over the past few years, this is the first time the company has reused the devices for a manned mission.