European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and her NASA colleagues Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, arrived at the International Space Station at 7:37 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 27, as the SpaceX Dragon Freedom docked to the complex while the spacecraft were flying about 261 miles above the Pacific Ocean.
Following Crew Dragon’s link up to the Harmony module, the astronauts aboard Dragon and the space station will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening.
The docking marks the start of Cristoforetti’s second space mission, known as Minerva.
Collectively known as Crew-4, the astronauts were launched from launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will join the Expedition 67 crew of Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, all of NASA, Matthias Maurer of ESA, and cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev of Roscosmos. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 departs in early May.
NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website are providing ongoing live coverage through hatch opening. NASA also will cover the ceremony to welcome the crew aboard the orbital outpost about 2:40 a.m. Thursday, April 28.
Cristoforetti serves as Mission Specialist during this flight and will now take on the role of USOS Lead, responsible for operations within the US Orbital Segment of the International Space Station for the duration of her mission.
This segment includes the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station.
Crew-4 was welcomed aboard by the Station’s current inhabitants, including ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer who was launched to the Station as part of Crew-3 and is expected to return shortly to Earth.
Two Europeans in orbit
ESA director general Josef Aschbacher says it is particularly special to see two European astronauts together in space.
“It gives me great pleasure to see not only the successful launch and docking of Crew-4 with Samantha Cristoforetti, but also the meeting of two highly capable European astronauts in orbit.
“As a seasoned space flyer, Samantha will continue to represent Europe and support European experiments aboard the Space Station throughout her Minerva mission. It is these experiments that will aid European innovation on Earth as we seek to build our industry, preserve our environment and explore even farther in space.”
This sentiment is echoed by ESA director of human and robotic exploration David Parker who says, “Samantha has been an excellent role model for those currently participating in ESA’s astronaut selection process – providing advice, insight and inspiration throughout.
“As USOS Lead, she will continue to be an excellent representative for Europe as we look forward to another busy few months of science, research and operations on the International Space Station.”