The Crew Dragon capsule built by Hawthorne-based SpaceX arrived at the International Space Station on Monday, Nov. 16, to engage in a history-making six-month science mission by its four-person crew, which includes Pomona native Victor Glover.

The Dragon capsule’s docking concluded a 27-hour, completely automated flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The Space Station will be home and workplace for the four-astronaut crew until spring.

The capsule achieved “soft capture” with the space station at 8:01 p.m. and “hard capture” a few minutes later. Just after 10 p.m., the the link was deemed secure and the crew climbed into the station, greeted by hugs and high spirits.

“Oh, what a good voice to hear,” space station astronaut Kate Rubins called out when the capsule’s commander first made radio contact.

“We can’t wait to have you on board,” she added after the two spacecraft were latched together.

Among the capsule crew is Navy Cmdr. Glover, 44, the first Black astronaut to serve on an extended Space Station Mission. Glover, a Navy commander, aviator and test pilot, is taking his first spaceflight as a Crew Dragon First Mission astronaut. He was presented his gold astronaut pin Monday by Commander Mike Hopkins during an impromptu mid-flight ceremony marking his first time crossing the 100-kilometer mark above Earth.

This is the second astronaut mission for SpaceX. But it’s the first time Elon Musk’s company is delivering a crew for a full half-year station stay. The two-pilot test flight earlier this year lasted two months.

The three Americans and one Japanese astronaut will remain at the orbiting lab until their replacements arrive on another Dragon in April. And so it will go, with SpaceX — and eventually Boeing — transporting astronauts to and from the station for NASA. This regular taxi service got underway with Sunday night’s launch.

First-time astronaut Glover was first selected an astronaut in 2013 and has logged just under 3,000 hours flying 40 different aircraft. Glover attended Ontario High and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in general engineering. From 2007 to 2010, he earned three master’s degrees: in flight test engineering, systems engineering and military operational art and science.

“We couldn’t be more proud to salute one of our own, Victor Glover, a 1994 graduate of Ontario High School, for his history-making space flight,” said Mathew Holton, Ed.D., superintendent of the  Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

“Victor made a lasting impression at Ontario High, as an excellent student and classmate and a CIF Wrestling Champion,” Holton added. “To be the first Black astronaut on a long-term space station mission is an inspiration and represents the limitless possibilities of all of our students. His success also reflects the reward that comes from hard work, mentorship, and a passion for what you do.”

Glover is married to Dionna Odom, and they have four children. He made 400 successful carrier landings and flew 24 combat missions while serving in the Navy. He is often affectionately referred to by his counterparts as Ike, a nod to a call sign a former commanding officer gave him that stands for “I know everything.”

Commander Hopkins and his crew — Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi —  join two Russians and one American who flew to the space station last month from Kazakhstan. Glover will be the first African-American to move in for a long haul.

The four astronauts named their capsule Resilience to provide hope and inspiration during an especially difficult year for the whole world. They broadcast a tour of their capsule Monday, showing off the touchscreen controls and storage areas.

Walker said it was a little tighter for them than for the two astronauts on the test flight.

“We sort of dance around each other to stay out of each other’s way,” she said.

For Sunday’s launch, NASA kept guests to a minimum because of coronavirus, and even SpaceX CEO Musk had to stay away after tweeting that he “most likely” had an infection. He was replaced in his official launch duties by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, who assured reporters he was still very much involved with Sunday night’s action, although remotely.

As they prepared for the space station linkup, the Dragon crew beamed down live window views of New Zealand and a brilliant blue, cloud-streaked Pacific 250 miles below.

“Looks amazing,” Mission Control radioed from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne.

“It looks amazing from up here, too,” Hopkins replied.

The Crew-1 mission launched at 4:27 p.m. Sunday California time from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the first crew-rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft. Minutes later, the Crew Dragon capsule separated from the rocket for a 27.5-hour trip to the International Space Station.

“This is a great day for the United States of America and a great day for Japan,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Sunday. “We look forward to many more years of a great partnership, not just in low-Earth orbit but all the way to the Moon.”

President-elect Joe Biden tweeted his congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on the launch, calling it “a testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination. I join all Americans and the people of Japan in wishing the astronauts Godspeed on their journey.”

President Donald Trump tweeted, “A great launch! @NASA was a closed up disaster when we took over. Now it is again the ‘hottest’, most advanced, space center in the world, by far!”

Sunday’s Crew-1 mission was originally set for Halloween, but had to be delayed so SpaceX could make needed upgrades to the Falcon 9 rocket being used for the launch.

The crew will take part in a host of microgravity experiments while aboard the International Space Station. It will also continue an experiment of growing radishes in space, helping to further understanding of how changes in gravity and atmosphere affect plant growth, considered key to future extended human travel to the moon and Mars.

The Dragon capsule is carrying a variety of scientific hardware and materials for experiments, including a food physiology study to examine the effect of diet on the immune system during space travel and a student-designed “Genes in Space” experiment of how spaceflight affects brain function.

In May, SpaceX propelled astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the space station in a Crew Dragon capsule named “Endeavour,” the first manned mission to launch from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

While successful and hailed as a historic rejuvenation of U.S. spaceflight, that mission was technically just a demonstration flight, showing off the capabilities of the Crew Dragon. An earlier flight of a Crew Dragon capsule was unmanned, but it also successfully reached the space station with a belly full of cargo.

Sunday’s launch is thus considered the first fully operational mission for a Crew Dragon. The capsule used in the mission, named “Resilience,” was built to accommodate four astronauts instead of the two who flew in the May launch.

The Crew-1 mission is the first of three planned Crew Dragon flights in 2020 and 2021.

The Associated Press, New York Times and City News Service contributed to this report. 

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