SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station Monday night in what appeared to be a smooth mission as the spacecraft maneuvered itself autonomously in a delicate parking job some 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.

“Excellent job. Right down the center,” Mike Hopkins, the NASA astronaut commanding the mission, said shortly after docking, which occurred at 11:01 p.m. over Idaho.

While not as dramatic or visually striking as the launch, docking the spacecraft was a difficult and potentially dangerous part of the mission, one the astronauts train for extensively.

Flight controllers at SpaceX headquarters and NASA mission control in Houston spent the day communicating with the astronauts on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, preparing them for the docking, which appeared to proceed flawlessly

“Yesterday was about the raw power of a rocket flinging a capsule,” NASA flight director Anthony Vareha wrote on Twitter Monday morning. “Today I get to preside over a ballet. The delicate dance of ‘how do you gently put this capsule at a certain spot within a few millimeters.’ It’s easy to throw. Catching is harder.’”

Especially in orbit.

The space station is traveling at 17,500 mph, and circles the Earth every 90 minutes. Since its launch at 7:27 p.m. Sunday, the Dragon capsule, dubbed “Resilience” by the crew, had been chasing it down, burning its engines to align itself. It approached slowly, passing through a series of “waypoints” where controllers monitored conditions and allowed the spacecraft to proceed only if it was safe and all systems were operating correctly.

On board the spacecraft were three NASA astronauts, Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover as well as Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. They ended their eight-hour sleep time shortly after noon and reported being in good spirits in the climate-controlled cabin, where the spacecraft was being kept at 75 degrees.

“It was a very nice night on board Resilience,” Hopkins told the ground.

Leading up to the docking, NASA and SpaceX officials said that while the launch went well the mission was far from over.

“We’re not done yet. We need to keep going,” Kathy Lueders, the director of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate, said during a news conference after the launch Sunday evening. “That spacecraft is out there with those precious crew members on it, and we’re going to get them to the International Space Station.”

While the docking was meant to be handled by the spacecraft’s computers, the crew could have taken over the controls at any time and manually fly the spacecraft. That was not necessary, however, and the Dragon docked itself without any problems.

The mission is the first time a privately owned and operated spacecraft certified by NASA to fly humans has made the trip. The May mission, when a pair of NASA astronauts spent two months on the station before coming home, was considered a test flight.

This time, however, the Crew Dragon spacecraft has been certified for human flight and the mission is the first of a series under NASA’s commercial crew program. The four-member crew is expected to be on board the station for about six months.

What you need to know

Below are the updates from the SpaceX’s ISS docking.

4:09 a.m.
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The space station is big. But there’s still not enough places for everyone to sleep.

By Christian Davenport

When the crew of four from the Crew-1 mission board the International Space Station, likely early Tuesday morning Eastern time, they will bring the population of the orbiting laboratory to seven. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov have been up there since last month.

For a spacecraft, the station is large — about the size of a football field. But still, a crew of seven is going to be tight. So tight, in fact, that initially there aren’t enough sleeping quarters for everyone.

That’s why Crew-1 mission commander Mike Hopkins has said he’ll sleep in the Dragon spacecraft, dubbed “Resilience,” as it’s attached to the station.

In a news conference before the launch, he said that there are plans to send an additional sleeping pod for him — a sleeping bag that’s tied down to keep its occupant from floating away. “But I’m not sure when it’s going to arrive,” he said. “So in the interim, they are exploring options of where I can sleep, including on Resilience itself.”

On their way to the station after launching Sunday, the crew had an eight-hour sleep period on the Dragon and seemed to wake up refreshed.

“It was a very nice night on board Resilience,” Hopkins told the ground.

4:02 a.m.
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Docking confirmed

By Christian Davenport

The SpaceX Crew Dragon has docked with the space station, some 27 hours after launching from the Kennedy Space Center. The docking seemed to go smoothly, and now the crews are awaiting a “hard capture” when the spacecraft’s 12 hooks will secure the capsule to the station.

The initial “soft capture” occurred at 11:01 p.m. over Idaho.

“Crew Dragon is now at the International Space Station,” NASA’s Leah Cheshier said on the live broadcast streamed by NASA and SpaceX, as applause broke out at SpaceX’s headquarters.

Just because the Dragon has docked doesn’t mean the astronauts will pop the hatch and climb right into the space station. That likely won’t happen for another couple of hours, while the crews monitor to ensure the pressure between the spacecraft and the station’s port is stabilized and there are no leaks.

3:57 a.m.
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“Go” for docking

By Christian Davenport

The Dragon spacecraft is a “go” for docking. The news comes just a few minutes after NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, the Crew-1 commander, opted to hold just 65 feet away so that the lighting conditions could approve, as the spacecraft moved from sunlight to darkness. The spacecraft is flying autonomously, but the astronauts have the ability to take over manually at any moment.

3:53 a.m.
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Glover gets his astronaut pin

By Christian Davenport

The Crew-1 astronauts on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft gave a brief tour of the vehicle Monday afternoon, taking turns showing off parts of the capsule. Mike Hopkins, the commander of the mission, showed off the control panels, touch screens that work even when the astronauts are in their flight suits wearing gloves.

Victor Glover showed off the hatches; Shannon Walker talked about how in the spacecraft “we sort of dance around each other to try and stay out of each other’s way.” Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi joked that they had stowed ice cream in the refrigerator used to store scientific experiments to bring to the station.

And then toward the end of the broadcast, Hopkins said he had a special surprise and gathered the crew around him.

“Just to give you a little history,” he began, “when you first are selected as an astronaut, and you come in for your basic training, you go through about two years of training to become an astronaut.” Once that’s complete, he said, each astronaut is given a silver pin.

But once you go to space, astronauts are awarded a gold pin.

He then pulled out a gold pin and gave it to a beaming Glover, the only member of the crew who had not been to space previously.

3:42 a.m.
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How Baby Yoda became a Zero-G indicator

By Christian Davenport
Astronauts aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon on Nov. 15 brought along a Baby Yoda as their "zero-g indicator," which helps indicate when the crew is in zero gravity. (NASA)

When Crew Dragon flew for the very first time, SpaceX tied a little toy stuffy of the Earth inside the crew cabin. When the capsule reached space, the stuffy would float, letting the controllers on the ground know that the spacecraft was in a weightless environment.

That “zero gravity indicator” has now become something of a tradition.

On the spacecraft’s first mission with a crew on board, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley picked out what they would like to see floating around in space. The result: “Tremor,” a stuffy dinosaur.

During the un-crewed test flight of its Starliner spacecraft, Boeing stowed away an astronaut Snoopy.

And so when it was the Crew-1 astronauts’ turn, they knew they had a high bar to clear. Their choice: a stuffed Baby Yoda.

3:23 a.m.
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Getting closer

By Christian Davenport

The SpaceX Crew Dragon has moved through the first checkpoint 1,300 feet below the station and is approaching the next stop, located in front of its docking port, 656 feet away.

It will then get the “go” from ground to enter the “keep out” zone and approach the station, getting to within just 65 feet and pause before proceeding.

Although this is only the third flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, it has flown the cargo variant of the spacecraft many times and has a lot of experience sidling up to the space station. There’s one key difference, though. The cargo Dragon is grabbed by the station’s robotic arm and then pulled into the port by a process known as “berthing.”

The Crew Dragon will “dock,” meaning it will fly itself to essentially park with the station.

3:13 a.m.
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Docking proceeding smoothly

By Christian Davenport

The astronauts have put their spacesuits back on, conducted pressure checks and are working to move though a series of “waypoints,” where they assess their program before moving on. The first waypoint was slightly more than 1,300 feet below the space station. The second is a spot in front of the station, 656 feet from the docking port.

The next checkpoint would be even closer, just about 65 feet away. The docking is still scheduled for 11 p.m.

At each stage, controllers on the ground will assess the spacecraft to make sure everything is operating normally before proceeding. On the station, the mission is being monitored by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who arrived there last month with two Russian cosmonauts.

The Dragon and space station are now close enough that they have clear views of each other.

3:09 a.m.
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A first, but not the first time SpaceX has docked with the International Space Station

By Christian Davenport

The mission is the first time a privately owned and operated spacecraft certified by NASA to fly humans to space has made the trip to the space station. But SpaceX craft have made the trip before.

In May in what was considered a test flight before NASA granted SpaceX its certification, SpaceX flew two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, to the station. They spent two months on the station before coming home.

Their reviews of the docking offer an insight to what the four astronauts aboard the Resilience are likely to feel as the station and capsule come together — nothing. They called it perhaps the biggest surprise of all.

The Dragon capsule glided in with such grace that “we didn’t feel the docking. It was just so smooth,” Hurley said. “That really, really surprised me.”

3:06 a.m.
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Astronauts got eight hours of sleep before they began preparing for tonight’s docking

By Christian Davenport

The four astronauts on board the SpaceX capsule — Americans Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi — reported they were in good spirits when awakened shortly after noon Eastern time. The temperature was a comfortable 75 degrees in the capsule, and they had had eight hours of rest.

“It was a very nice night on board Resilience,” Hopkins told the ground, referring to the capsule by the name the crew has given it.

The trip to the space station was expected to take 27 hours from the capsule’s 7:27 p.m. Sunday liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Had the crew left on Saturday, as originally planned, before weather forced a postponement, the trip would have lasted just eight hours.

The space station is traveling at 17,500 mph, and circles the Earth every 90 minutes. Since its launch, the Dragon capsule has been chasing the space station, firing its engines periodically to align itself for the rendezvous.

The capsule will approach cautiously, passing through a series of “go-no go” points where controllers will allow the spacecraft to proceed only if it is safe and all systems are operating correctly. Most of the maneuvers will be handled by the capsule’s computers, though the crew can take over operations manually if necessary.

Once the capsule has attached itself to the space station, it will likely take two hours or more before the doors of both the capsule and the space station are opened and the astronauts are welcomed on board the station.

3:03 a.m.
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Glover to become first Black astronaut to live on the space station for an extended stay

By Christian Davenport

There have been astronauts living continuously aboard the International Space Station for 20 years, a milestone NASA celebrated this month.

During that time, astronauts from 19 different countries have been represented on the station. But there has never been a Black astronaut who served an extended stay on the station.

Until now.

Victor Glover, a former Navy fighter pilot and father of four, is expected to become the first African American to live and work on the station for an extended stay. It was a bittersweet distinction, he said, too long in coming.

“I actually try very hard not to think a lot about it,” he said at a news conference before the flight. “I want to do my job very well, and I want to come back and talk to you about that after I get back home to my family safely. So, I would say let us accomplish that first and then we have something to celebrate. It’s bittersweet. And I can’t tell you why it’s taken us this long. But again, I hope to go up there and do my job to the best of my ability. And I would love to come back and tell you stories afterwards.”

Blacks and African Americans account for less than 12 percent of the NASA workforce, according to the agency. They hold only about 1.3 percent of senior-level, senior scientific and professional positions and fewer than 9 percent are at the agency’s top paying jobs.

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing while in the custody of police, Glover wrote on Twitter: “My heart is low, my head is level, and my faith is high. So much to process, if you’re struggling, that’s OK. I see you. I am you.”

Later when someone on Twitter said he should stick to space, he said: “Actually no. Remember who is doing space. People are. As we address extreme weather and pandemic disease, we will understand and overcome racism and bigotry so we can safely and together do space. Thanks for asking.”

Now, he’s part of a diverse crew on board the capsule and will soon join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on the space station.

For years, the orbiting lab has been home to all sorts of people from different backgrounds and experiences and, for the most part, they’ve gotten along extremely well.

“When you think about those 20 years of the people,” Leland Melvin, a former NASA astronaut, told The Washington Post recently, “gay, straight, Muslim, Christian and Catholic, atheist, these different colors, these different lifestyles — all these people were able to come together and build something from one module to this international outpost the size of a football field without fighting, without warring. That is worthy of a peace prize.”

3:00 a.m.
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How to spot the station

By Christian Davenport

The International Space Station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes and on clear a night can be seen from Earth. Often, it’s the brightest spot in the sky and is streaking pretty fast so you usually get only a few minutes to catch a glimpse when it happens to be overhead.

NASA has a website that allows you to see when it’ll be flying over your community and how to sign up for alerts.

It’ll be visible over Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at 7:02 p.m. for one minute and on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. for three minutes. It’ll be a good time to step outside and wave to the astronauts.