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600 Space Travelers In 6 Decades

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German material scientist Matthias Maurer has become the 600th astronaut to enter the aerospace in the six decades' history of human beings' travel to the other world.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, carrying Maurer and three other members of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission, docked to the International Space Station at 6:32 p.m. ET Thursday, while the spacecraft was flying 260 miles above the eastern Caribbean Sea.

They reached their new residence more than 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Maurer, representing the European Space Agency, along with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander; Tom Marshburn, pilot; and Kayla Barron, mission specialist; reached the destination in less than 24 hours after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a six-month science mission.

The spacecraft launched atop the SpaceX company's Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.

The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts opened the hatch of their Crew Dragon spacecraft Endurance at 8:25 p.m. ET and participated in a welcome ceremony with their Expedition 66 crewmates.

On board to welcome them were NASA flight engineer Mark Vande Hei, Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov, and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, both of Roscosmos. NASA associate administrator for Space Operations, Kathy Lueders, and ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher joined them in the welcome ceremony from Earth.

The SpaceX Crew-3 mission, which is the U.S. space agency's third crew rotation, will remain on board the microgravity laboratory until April 2022 as a part of Expedition 66.

During the six-month mission, they will be engaged in a number of science and research investigations to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human, and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA's Moon and Mars exploration missions.

Some of these include a food physiology experiment that will study the impacts of an enhanced spaceflight diet on astronaut health, a sensor that will test a set of LED beacons with which Astrobee free-flying robots will interact during formation flight maneuvers, and a Human Research Program project that will collect a set of core measurements related to human spaceflight risks from astronauts before, during, and after long-duration missions.

Crew-3 is the third of six crew rotation missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program. This is the first flight for Chari, Barron, and Maurer, and the third for Marshburn, who flew on STS-127 and Expedition 34/35.

The list of 600 space travelers, which begins with Yuri Gagarin's pioneering flight in 1961, also includes actor William Shatner and aviator and space tourist Wally Funk.

Shatner, who flew on Blue Origin's second sub-orbital human spaceflight at the age of 90 last month, became the oldest person to fly to space.

82-year-old Funk, who flew on Blue Origin's first human spaceflight in July, became the oldest woman to go to space.

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