By The Washington Post · Christian Davenport, Jacob Bogage · NATIONAL, SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT
Before that happens, the astronauts and controllers on the ground have to ensure that the pressure between the spacecraft and the station is equalized. They will also be setting up an umbilical that will allow communications and power to transfer between the two.
The Dragon spacecraft, now named Endeavour, docked at 10:16 a.m. EDT, a few minutes earlier than planned. Shortly after docking, Hurley said, "it's been a real honor to be just a small part of this nine-year endeavor since the last time a United States space ship docked with the International Space Station."
In Houston's mission control, flight director Zeb Scoville congratulated the crew.
"Bravo on a magnificent moment in spaceflight history," he said, "and on the start of a new journey that has changed the face of space travel in this new era of space transportation."
Before opening the hatch and entering the station, Behnken and Hurley will conduct a series of pressure and leak checks to ensure their safety. Then they will join fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the station.
The docking was a delicate and dangerous part of the mission. The spacecraft chased down the space station, traveling in orbit at 17,500 m.p.h., but then approached very slowly in a series of carefully choreographed maneuvers.
The mission went smoothly, ground officials said, following a picture-perfect launch some 19 hours earlier from the Kennedy Space Center.
The flight is the first launch of NASA astronauts since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, and the first of a private company of humans to orbit.
Behnken and Hurley said during a live broadcast Sunday morning that they have had a smooth ride so far, got a decent night's sleep and awoke this morning to Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan," continuing a NASA tradition of waking astronauts to music.
En route to the space station, the Dragon spacecraft performed a series of "burns," or engine thrusts that raised its orbit to eventually match that of the station. Shortly before 9 a.m. the spacecraft was moving into position about 400 meters below the station.
The Dragon spacecraft flies autonomously, but the astronauts can take over the controls at any time, and seem to be enjoying flying a modern spacecraft. During a broadcast from the capsule, Hurley noted that they were the first astronauts to control a spacecraft using a touchscreen.
"So we got that going for us," he said.