Nasa astronaut Chris Cassidy has said the Crew Dragon capsule had a “new car” smell as the hatch opened into the International Space Station (ISS), allowing fresh arrivals Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken onboard.
The pair made history on Saturday, marking the first time Nasa has launched astronauts from US soil in nine years, while SpaceX became the first private company to send humans into orbit.
Mr Cassidy, who welcomed his fellow Americans after a 19-hour journey through space, said: “There was a little bit of space smell in the vestibule, then when we’ve got that hatch open you could tell it was a brand new vehicle with smiley faces on the other side, smiley face on mine, just as if you had bought a new car, the same kind of reaction.”
Both embarking on their third tenure aboard ISS, Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken said Dragon flew pretty similar to the old Space Shuttle – Nasa’s last mode of transport to the ISS – but revealed docking was smoother.
“The thing that really stood out to both of us – and we mentioned it as soon as we docked – as we didn’t feel the docking, it was just so smooth,” Mr Behnken explained in a live press conference.
“And then we were docked, which in Shuttle you felt a little bit of a jolt nothing real heavy, but you felt it.
“We asked the guys on board Station the same question and they said we didn’t feel it either which is more typical but anyway that really, really surprised me.”
Elsewhere, the duo revealed the toilet on board Dragon “worked very well” and “had no issues”.
But Mr Behnken warned that while their arrival was a success, there remains “plenty of work to do” to ensure that the new technology is fit for generations to come.
“We’ve just docked, we’ve still got to do our mission here with Chris and then undock, depart and do a re-entry and then a landing and then a recovery,” he said.
The 49-year-old also said it is “a little bit strange” not knowing how long their mission will go on for, with it expected to last anything between one and four months.
The aim of the mission, named Demo-2, is to demonstrate SpaceX’s ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and back safely.
It is the final major step required by SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get certified by Nasa’s Commercial Crew Programme for long-term manned missions to space.