Cape Canaveral, Florida: The International Space Stations population swelled to 11 on Saturday with the jubilant arrival of SpaceXs third crew capsule in less than a year.
Its the biggest crowd up there in more than a decade.
All of the astronauts representing the US, Russia, Japan and France managed to squeeze into camera view for a congratulatory call from the leaders of their space agencies.
This image provided by NASA, astronauts from SpaceX are greeted by the astronauts from the International Space Station.Credit:AP
In this tough situation around the world, I believe you have brought courage and hope for all of us, Japanese Space Agency president Hiroshi Yamakawa said from his countrys flight control centre, referring to the global pandemic.
A recycled SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts arrived at the space station a day after launching from NASAs Kennedy Space Centre. The Dragon capsule docked autonomously with the orbiting outpost more than 420 kilometres above the Indian Ocean. The hatches swung open a couple hours later, uniting all 11 space travellers.
Man, it is awesome to see the 11 of you on station, said NASAs acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk. He noted that this would be the norm, now that SpaceX was regularly flying crews.
The newcomers will spend six months at the space station. Theyll replace four astronauts who will return to Earth in their own Dragon capsule on Wednesday to end a half-year mission. NASA deliberately planned for a brief overlap so the outgoing SpaceX crew could show the new arrivals around.
Although this was SpaceXs third crew flight for NASA, it was the first to use a vehicle thats flown before, an essential part of a plan by SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk to push to the moon and Mars. The Dragon capsule was used for SpaceXs first crew launch last May, while the Falcon rocket soaring on Friday hoisted crew two in November.
It was the first time two SpaceX crew Dragons were parked there at the same time practically side by side.

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