The crew of the International Space Station ISS has grown to eleven people, making it bigger than it has been in more than ten years.
On Saturday, four astronauts docked with a reused capsule from the private space company SpaceX and joined the existing crew.
With so many on board, the space station will soon need an expansion, joked the General Director of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher.
Newly arrived astronauts on the ISS include Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from the USA, Thomas Pesquet from France and Akihiko Hoshide from Japan.
The four astronauts on board the “Crew Dragon” space capsule “Endeavor” from the private space company SpaceX docked at the ISS at around 420 kilometers above the Indian Ocean in the morning.
Two hours later, around 1:00 p.m. CEST, the crew was greeted by their colleagues from the last SpaceX mission.
On Friday morning, the capsule was launched into space using a launcher from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The "Crew 2" team is to stay on the ISS for six months.
Among other things, the astronauts will carry out around a hundred experiments and modernize the solar energy system on the ISS.
"What is happening today is quite historical"
"We are so excited to have you on board," radioed ISS commander Shannon Walker after the meeting.
All eleven squeezed together in order to then be in the frame of a video call with the space agencies.
The French astronaut Pesquet described the arrival on the ISS as solemn.
It has been 20 years since astronauts from NASA, the Japanese space agency Jaxa, the European space agency ESA and Russian cosmonauts were together in space.
"So what is happening today is actually quite historical," he said.
“We can't wait to start our work on the space station.
We can't wait to see what's in store for us on this adventure. "
SpaceX's “Crew Dragon” spaceship is approaching the International Space Station
Source: pa / dpa / NASA / AP / -
Pesqeut is the first European to fly to the ISS with SpaceX.
He is to stay on board the ISS for six months and in his last month in space he will also take command there - as the third European after the German Alexander Gerst and the Belgian Frank de Winne.
This is the second crew to be transported to the ISS by the private space company SpaceX.
The first - US astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as their Japanese colleague Soichi Noguchi - docked at the ISS in November.
They are scheduled to return to Earth in late April.
Until then it will be tight on the ISS: In addition to “Crew-1”, the cosmonauts Oleg Nowizki and Pyotr Dubrow as well as the NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei have been on board the space station since the beginning of April.
SpaceX uses used rocket capsules for the first time
"Crew-1" was the first to fly regularly with the "Crew Dragon" to the ISS after a manned test flight to the ISS last spring was successful.
After a break of almost nine years, the test was the first time that astronauts have returned to orbit from American soil - and the first time ever that they have been promoted by a private space company.
SpaceX undertook the third manned flight to the ISS for the first time with a "Crew Dragon" capsule and rocket stage that had previously been used.
In addition, the rocket stage landed safely on earth and is to be used again to save costs.
Four more manned SpaceX flights to the ISS are currently planned.
It is SpaceX's third manned mission to the ISS.
The company's first mission last May from high-tech pioneer Elon Musk ended a nine-year period in which the US relied on Russian missiles for flights to the ISS.
With the astronauts, the “Crew Dragon” also transported around 110 kilograms of supplies and materials for scientific experiments.
Recycling spaceships is one of SpaceX founder Musk's visions.
In a press conference after the launch of Endeavor, he said, “I think we are at the beginning of a new era in space exploration.
We are excited to be a part of the advancement of manned spaceflight and look forward to going beyond Earth's orbit to the Moon and Mars and helping one day transform humanity into a space-traveling civilization on multiple planets, " so musk.
Acting NASA boss Steve Jurczyk spoke of an “important milestone” and an “incredible year for NASA”.
Due to the now regular SpaceX flights, there should be overlaps again in the future and thus larger crews through which the old crew can instruct the new one.
When NASA was still flying to the ISS with its space shuttles - the program was discontinued in 2011 - things kept getting tight on the ISS. At one point in time, there were even 13 crew members on board the space laboratory, the previous record.