SpaceX Crew Dragon chalks up picture-perfect space station docking

Nineteen hours after a spectacular Florida launch, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule caught up with the International Space Station early Sunday and glided in for a problem-free docking, bringing veteran astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the outpost in SpaceX’s first piloted space flight.

The historic mission marks a major milestone in NASA’s push to end the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for carrying astronauts to and from the lab complex, the first piloted launch to orbit by a privately owned and operated spacecraft since the dawn of the space age.

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The Crew Dragon capsule on final approach to the International Space Station.NASA TV

“Welcome to Bob and Doug,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said to the crew in a call from mission control at the Johnson Space Center. “The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you’ve done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world.”Ad

“We sure appreciate that, sir,” Hurley replied, floating in the space station’s Harmony module, flanked by crewmate Behnken, space station commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.