Early Friday morning (March 3), SpaceX's Dragon Endeavour spacecraft carrying the four astronauts of the Crew-6 mission approached the International Space Station (ISS).
Crew-6's dramatic meetup with the space station, which culminated with a docking at 1:40 a.m. EST (0640 GMT) on Friday, was captured in a breathtaking time-lapse video created using NASA footage.
The docking maneuver had been postponed by an hour while SpaceX worked an issue with a faulty sensor associated with one of the 12 hooks on Dragon that connect the capsule to the space station. After a software override was uploaded to Endeavour, the capsule was able to successfully link up with the space station.
The time-lapse video demonstrates the high drama of the off-Earth operation, showing Endeavour as it approaches the ISS at an altitude of around 260 miles (418 kilometers).
Dominating the video is the image of Earth, against which Endeavour appears as a slowly growing gray speck as it is filmed from the ISS. In other shots, the Dragon craft is seen from above as it races over the tops of fluffy white clouds on Earth.
Another part of the video shows the Dragon's target, the ISS, from the perspective of the spacecraft, no doubt a reassuring sight for the Crew-6 astronauts — NASA's Stephen Bowen and Warren "Woody" Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaevsee.
The footage also gives a glimpse inside Endeavour as it makes its nail-biting approach to the ISS with commander Bowen and pilot Hoburg at the helm. The video also demonstrates how space missions like Crew-6 are the result of a massive collaborative effort, as shots show the busy scene at mission control here on Earth.
Following this, the Crew-6 astronauts met up with current ISS occupants, the Expedition 68 crew of NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, as well as Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and Anna Kikina.
Cassada, Mann, Kikina and Wakata flew to the ISS on SpaceX's Crew-5 mission in October 2022 and are scheduled to return to Earth in just a few days.
During their six-month science mission, the Crew-6 astronauts will engage in a series of cutting-edge science experiments, including tests designed to assess the effects of long-term space missions on human health.
The team will also use the Combustion Integrated Rack to test fuel burning in microgravity, assessing the effect of altering various test parameters like airflow, oxygen concentration, pressure and radiation levels.