In a squashed space, you never know what kind of activities will break out.
Stunning views of Earth and 'shenanigans' between the turtle and monkey zero-gravity indicators on board are just some of the benefits the Crew-4 astronauts enjoyed in the brand-new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, called Freedom.
"Our first and most favorite part about being in Dragon so far is definitely the view," NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, the first Black female astronaut on a long-duration mission, said in a video broadcast on Wednesday (April 27).
"It's been so cool to see the terminator come in and out [due to] day and night cycles, to get to see the clouds," Watkins added. "All of the rock formations are particularly interesting to me as a geologist."
Besides the view, however, the crew spent some time talking about the plush turtle and small monkey that launched with SpaceX's Crew-4 astronauts. "As everybody knows, when you get a turtle and a monkey together, that is a shenanigan," pilot Robert Hines said. (The turtle, the monkey and the word 'shenanigan' all refer to the names of the various astronaut classes the crew members belong to.)
Freedom is the fourth and newest SpaceX Dragon capsule to carry astronauts to space after Endeavour, Resilience and Endurance. All four spacecraft were named by the debut crews to ride them. The crew didn't highlight any great distinctions between Freedom and previous SpaceX Dragons for NASA, but noted that the new spacecraft is performing very well.
"We had a couple of burns during our sleep periods with, all of a sudden, new fuel cells," the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti said. As her sleeping bag was gently pushed by the burn, she recalled, she moved over to one of the windows nearby.
"I saw visually, the fairings," Cristoforetti added, referring to the structures overlying the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that launched Crew Dragon to space. "It was like a ghost flying behind us, light glimmering, making incredible shapes. Then it became more of an incandescent light, and it was just just beautiful."
Commander Kjell Lindgren also praised the Falcon 9. "The sensation of the rocket last night, that was absolutely amazing, an incredibly smooth ride," he said. "It was just incredibly fun to feel that acceleration, and then the weightlessness after we got into orbit."
The crew docked at the International Space Station later Wednesday (April 27) for an expected six-month mission.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace