Four astronauts riding a reused SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft shared a brief glimpse of their life in orbit just hours after a flawless launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Crew-2 mission astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, European Space Agency’s (ESA) Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — introduced their fifth companion: a soft toy penguin called “GuinGuin.”
“It was really cool to see GuinGuin start flying after we reached zero G,” Kimbrough joked during the video tour.
But GuinGuin wasn’t the only one who was learning to fly in zero gravity. The crew’s pilot Meghan McArthur admitted she was feeling a bit clumsy relearning how to move in microgravity after a hiatus of more than ten years.
“I am like a baby bird here,” said McArthur, whose previous spaceflight sent her to the Hubble Space Telescope on the shuttle Atlantis in 2009. “But it feels really good. Good and weird. Fortunately, it’s a small space.”
McArthur, whose husband fellow NASA astronaut Bob Behnken flew in the same capsule during the first manned mission of Crew Dragon in May last year, later admired the touch-sensitive displays providing the spacefarers with an overview of the capsule’s systems.
“It’s pretty neat to have the touch screens rather than the old-timey gauges,” she said referring to the Space Shuttle interior. “We can see all the different facilities that we have. Bring up the different systems pages. We could monitor the ascent and we will be able to monitor the docking sequence after we get to the space station.”
There was more to be in awe of during the short flight. The space capsule, dubbed Endeavour, shot off towards the sky aboard a used Falcon 9 rocket just as the sun was beginning to rise in Florida, rewarding the crew after the long wait on the launch pad with a view of the sunrise reserved for very few.
“We caught up with the sun a few minutes after we took off,” Kimbrough said from somewhere above South Africa just as the capsule was making its second lap around the planet. “That was pretty special to see the sunlight coming in.”
McArthur said: “For me, the ascent was incredible. The ride was really smooth and we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Later, after the astronauts climbed out of their spacesuits, they could observe their Falcon 9 rocket’s freshly discarded second stage floating underneath the spacecraft.
The international crew, the first in 20 years bringing together astronauts from NASA, ESA and JAXA, seemed to have made themselves quite comfortable inside the cramped capsule for their nearly 23- hour cruise to the International Space Station.
“It’s very comfy inside, we are very well protected, everything is great,” said Thomas Pesquet before treating the audience to a cloudy view from the capsule’s window.
Akihiko Hoshide added: “This capsule is just like our mockup simulator, except, it’s reverse, we are actually upside down.”
Crew-2 is expected to reach the International Space Station shortly after 5 a.m.ET (0900 GMT) tomorrow, April 24, when they will join four astronauts of Crew-1 and three members of Expedition 65, bringing the total number of occupants of the orbital outpost to 11.
“We are enjoying our first day in space and looking forward to having a good time with the ISS crew,” Kimbrough said.