For the first time, seven crew members – and Baby Yoda – are living on the International Space Station for an extended stay of six months.
After launching on Sunday, NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover Jr., Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan’s space agency, were welcomed aboard the space station early Tuesday by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
And perhaps no one is more excited than Glover. It’s the astronaut’s first trip to space – and by all accounts, he hasn’t stopped smiling since he arrived.
Glover is the first full-time Black crew member on the space station.
“When the engine cut off and we were in orbit, it was surreal,” Glover said in a news conference from the space station Thursday. “I’ve seen a ton of pictures, but when I first looked out the window at Earth, I had no words. It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime feeling.”
The rest of his crew has been just as excited. When they hit zero gravity, his crew turned to Glover and said, “We’re in space!”
And as Glover came through the hatch, Rubins rushed to greet him and threw her hands out. “Oh my, God, you’re here!” she shouted gleefully.
Floating for an extended period of time is new to Glover. Previously, he’s experienced a few seconds of floating as a Navy test pilot. “But floating for an extended period is truly amazing,” he said. “My brain is constantly trying to figure out which way is up. It’s an interesting challenge, one I find slightly amusing. I’m writing notes so I can look back on this later.”
Glover said he’s experienced a wealth of emotions. Approaching the space station inspired awe and happiness, but he’s also eager to get to work and contribute.
An advocate for social justice and protecting the planet, Glover said this journey to the space station has strengthened his resolve.
“I believe that what I’ve said and what I’ve tried to work for is just what’s right. To be honest and upfront with people, and then to work for what’s right.” he said. “And I think that doing the right thing is always in order. So looking at the planet from this perspective – to see the Earth and these beautiful land masses and oceans without lines or words drawn on them – it just heightens an awareness that the planet needs protection, and human life needs protection, and we are the ones who have to protect it.”
“I hope this (mission) inspires people to literally and figuratively look up, especially as 2020 comes to a close.”
It’s getting a little crowded on the orbiting laboratory, but in a good way.
“It’s busy in a great way,” Rubins said. “There is energy up here and people zooming by. There is so much going on at the space station. And we’ll be able to accomplish a huge amount of research. The amount of scientific output from this mission will be incredible.”
Rubins sounded relieved. Astronauts also spend a significant portion of their time performing space station maintenance, in addition to running hundreds of science experiments.
The crew estimates it will take them a few weeks to adjust to having five people on the US side of the space station.
“There have been some traffic jams through modules going from place to place,” Walker said.
“We need to figure out how five people work around here without running into each other,” Hopkins added.
The crew has been busy since coming through the hatch early Tuesday morning. Once they get settled, the crew will jump into dividing up the wealth of experiments currently on the station and prepare for more that will launch on December 2.
“Science investigators have been waiting a long time for this moment,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to see just how much science can come out of this space station.”
Sleeping in a spaceship
Hopkins is going to have an unusual sleeping arrangement compared to the rest of his colleagues. While their crew quarters are on the space station, Hopkins will be staying in the Resilience capsule, docked with the space station.
The crew has spent the last two days moving cargo out of it so he can move in.
Hopkins served as the commander of the SpaceX Crew vehicle for launch.
During the Shuttle