Fifty years to the day after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon, a NASA astronaut, an Italian flight engineer and a Russian commander blasted off from Kazakhstan Saturday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, chased down the International Space Station and glided in for a picture-perfect docking.
A veteran Russian commander, Italian flight engineer and a rookie NASA astronaut lifted off at 1628 GMT (12:28 p.m. EDT) Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, kicking off a six-hour flight to the International Space Station. The crew docked with the station at 2248 GMT (6:48 p.m. EDT).
Investigators believe a leak of propellant inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s propulsion system led to the capsule’s explosion April 20 during a ground test at Cape Canaveral, and a senior SpaceX official said Monday that delays are making it “increasingly difficult” to fly astronauts on the commercial spaceship before the end of the year.
The pressurized crew module and European-built service module for NASA’s first Orion spacecraft to travel to the moon will be joined together for the first time in the coming weeks at the Kennedy Space Center, with preparations — at least for Orion — on a pace to be ready for launch on an unpiloted test flight next year.