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Richland native Kayla Barron part of astronaut team that docked at International Space Station on Thursday

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 11, 2021

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kayla Barron was first through the doors Thursday evening, crossing the threshold of her home for the next six months.

That home on the International Space Station is about 263 miles above the Earth’s surface. It’s the first space flight for Barron, a 34-year-old Richland native, and part of a journey that could lead to the moon.

Barron became the 601st person in space when the Space-X Crew 3 mission launched Tuesday, after several delays due to weather and health issues. The vehicle docked within 24 hours of launching from Florida on Wednesday, and the hatch opened just before 5:30 p.m. Spokane time.

“I think we all loved the ride up here,” said astronaut Raja Chari, the mission commander. “It was way smoother than we could have imagined.”

The four-member team will help man the station through April and will conduct studies in materials science, health technologies and plant science, according to NASA. They join a three-man team that includes Mark Vande Hei, who embraced Barron when she traveled through the hatch.

Barron did not speak from the space station Thursday evening, but she did help Chari steady himself prior to a news conference.

The work on the space station is intended to lay the groundwork for the Artemis missions, future planned explorations of the moon. Vande Hei said there are 60 experiments in progress at the space station.

Barron, who is making her first space flight, was selected as a member of the 18-person team that has the chance to be the first humans on the moon’s surface since 1972.

“Whoever from this cadre ends up being the first woman on the moon, we’ll be standing on the shoulders of women who have been completing firsts for decades at NASA,” Barron told The Spokesman-Review last December.

The Artemis team also includes Spokane’s Anne McClain.

Barron and her crewmates, NASA astronauts Chari and Tom Marshburn, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, were taken to the International Space Station by the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft, built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. Boeing is also in the process of developing a commercially operated spacecraft for use on NASA missions.

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