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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — The commercially developed SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon ship carrying a group of four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France successfully docked with the International Space Station on Saturday following its liftoff from NASA's space center a day earlier, Kyodo reported.
Two NASA astronauts — Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur — along with Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency will begin an approximate six-month mission at the orbiting laboratory.
The new crew arrived after a roughly 23 and a half hour trip, bringing the number of astronauts currently aboard the ISS to 11.
"Welcome back to home away from home for 6 months!!!!!!" 56-year-old JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who arrived at the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon ship in November, said in a Twitter post. He will begin his return to Earth on Wednesday after a handover.
It is the first time in 11 years that two Japanese astronauts have been in space simultaneously, since Noguchi and Naoko Yamazaki, 50, in 2010.
"I look forward to seeing a scrum formed by the 11 astronauts and engaging in the mission," Hoshide, 52, said after arriving at the ISS, likening the mission to his beloved rugby.
Hoshide will serve as a commander of the ISS and a mission specialist on the station and is planning on conducting experiments using the Experiment Module "Kibo" while aboard, among other endeavors.
The SpaceX system is expected to serve as a successor to NASA's Space Shuttle program that was in service for 30 years through 2011, its development ending the subsequent years of reliance on the Russian Soyuz vehicle as the sole means of accessing the ISS. — Kyodo
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