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.