SpaceX's Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station

The Dragon SpaceX capsule after docking to the International Space Station on November 16, 2020. NASA TV via AP

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6 min

SpaceX's Dragon capsule carries four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese.

It docked overnight from Monday to Tuesday, November 17 at the International Space Station (ISS).


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The first phase of the docking with the ISS, the " 

soft capture

 ", ended on Tuesday at 4:01 UT, according to images broadcast live on the Internet by Nasa.

The second phase, or " 

hard capture

 ", took place a few minutes later.

The capsule, called " 


 ", was

launched by a Falcon 9 rocket

from the private firm SpaceX, NASA's new means of space transport after nine years of dependence on Russia.


is a great day for the United States of America and for Japan

 ", declared Jim Bridenstine, chief of Nasa, during a press conference.

See Crew-1 dock at the @Space_Station after 27 hours of flying through space. # SpaceLaunchLIVE: Crew-1 Docking starts at 11p ET on @ScienceChannel.

  Science Channel (@ScienceChannel) November 16, 2020

Six months in the orbital laboratory

The Falcon rocket took off on time Monday night from the Kennedy Space Center with Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, all strapped into the Dragon capsule attached to the top.

It was a hell of a launch,

 " said Captain Michael Hopkins once in orbit.

The first stage detached quickly before returning to land on a drone ship, SpaceX's trademark.

Twelve minutes after takeoff, at an altitude of 200 km and a speed of 27,000 km / h, the Dragon capsule detached from the second stage.

The four astronauts join two Russians and an American in the station.

They will stay six months in the orbital laboratory, spinning around the Earth 400 km above the oceans.

Tom Cruise in the ISS?

This first “




follows the successful demonstration mission from May to August, during which two American astronauts were taken to the ISS and then brought back to Earth safely by SpaceX, the first private company to accomplish this technological feat.

In total, the firm created by

Elon Musk

is to launch two other manned flights in 2021 for NASA, including in the spring with the European Thomas Pesquet, and four cargo refueling missions in the next 15 months.

A purely private mission, via partner Axiom Space, is also scheduled for the end of 2021. NASA has hinted that American actor Tom Cruise could go to the ISS, which has not been confirmed.

Power of science



NASA was a disaster when we took matters into our own hands.

Today it is the most popular and advanced space center in the world, by far


President Donald Trump tweeted, appropriating the success of a program launched under his two predecessors.

A great launch!

@NASA was a closed up disaster when we took over.

Now it is again the “hottest”, most advanced, space center in the world, by far!

  Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden also praised NASA and SpaceX.


It's proof of the power of science and of what we can accomplish by combining innovation, inventiveness and determination,

 ” he tweeted.

Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on today's launch.

It's a testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination.

I join all Americans and the people of Japan in wishing the astronauts Godspeed on their journey.

  Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 16, 2020

When will the moon be?

It took the Americans nine years to certify the successor of the shuttles, which were retired in 2011. NASA has chosen public-private partnerships.

A second aircraft, Starliner, manufactured by Boeing, is behind schedule and could be operational in a year.

NASA hopes to continue cooperation with Russia.

She has offered seat swaps, but her negotiations with Roskosmos are dragging on.

The reality is that the ties between Washington and Moscow in the space domain, one of the few where they remained good, are weakening.

Breaking with more than twenty years of cooperation on the ISS, Russia will not participate in the next mini-station wanted by NASA around the Moon, the Gateway.

For Artemis, this American program to return to the Moon in 2024, NASA has signed partnerships with other space agencies, including Japan and Europe.

But the future is not clear: it has not yet received from the US Congress the tens of billions of dollars needed to finalize it.

And Joe Biden has not taken over the 2024 target.

To read also: First manned flight of SpaceX: "The culmination of ten years of investments"


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