The International Space Station's population swelled to 11 on Saturday with the jubilant arrival of SpaceX's third crew capsule in less than a year. It's the biggest crowd up there in more than a decade. All of the astronauts—representing the US, Russia, Japan, and France—managed to squeeze into camera view for a congratulatory call from the leaders of their space agencies, the AP reports. "In this tough situation around the world, I believe you have brought courage and hope for all of us,” said Japanese Space Agency President Hiroshi Yamakawa. A recycled SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts arrived at the space station a day after launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The new arrivals are NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, France's Thomas Pesquet, and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide.
The Dragon capsule docked autonomously with the orbiting outpost more than 260 miles above the Indian Ocean "Man, it is awesome to see the 11 of you on station,” said NASA's acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk. He noted that this will be the norm, now that SpaceX is regularly flying crews. The newcomers will spend six months at the space station. They’ll replace four astronauts who will return to Earth in their own Dragon capsule Wednesday to end a half-year mission. NASA deliberately planned for a brief overlap so the outgoing SpaceX crew could show the new arrivals around. Although this was SpaceX’s third crew flight for NASA, it was the first to use a vehicle that’s flown before, an essential part of Musk's push to the moon and Mars. (Russia is planning to build its own space station.)