Astronauts share gravity defying hugs as they arrive at the International Space Station

From left, Russian cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, pilot Michael Barratt, commander Matthew Dominick, and mission specialist Jeanette Epps wave to the media. Credit: AP

Nasa has shared the heartwarming moment crew members shared gravity defying hugs, as they successfully boarded the International Space Station.

The four new members will oversee the arrivals of two new rocket ships during their six-month stint on the station.

SpaceX’s Falcon rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Centre, carrying NASA’s Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps and Russia’s Alexander Grebenkin on Sunday.

On Tuesday the space explorers reached the orbiting lab, where they will replace a crew from the US, Denmark, Japan and Russia, who have been there since August.

“When are you getting here already?” space station commander Andreas Mogensen asked via X, formerly known as Twitter, after a three day delay due to high wind.

SpaceX Launch Control termed it “fashionably late.”

There was almost another postponement on Sunday night, after a small crack in the seal of the SpaceX capsule's hatch prompted a last-minute flurry of reviews, but it was deemed safe for the whole mission.

The new crew's half-year stay includes the arrival of two rocket ships ordered by NASA.

Boeing’s new Starliner capsule with test pilots is due in late April, and a month or two later, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser, a mini shuttle, should arrive.

The shuttle is for delivering cargo to the station, but isn't quite ready to deliver passengers just yet.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule on a mission to the International Space Station lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: AP

Jeanette Epps was originally assigned to fly Boeing’s Starliner, which was stalled due to multiple problems. NASA then switched her to SpaceX.

“I am in a New York state of mind right now, it is amazing," she said upon reaching orbit, referring to the Billy Joel song.

Ms Epps is the second Black woman assigned to a long station mission.

She said before the flight that she is especially proud to be a role model for black girls, demonstrating that spaceflight “is an option for them, that this is not just for other people.”

An engineer, she worked for Ford Motor Co. and the CIA before becoming an astronaut in 2009.

Ms Epps should have launched to the space station on a Russian rocket in 2018, but was replaced for reasons never publicly disclosed.

Also new to space are Matthew Dominick, a Navy pilot, and Alexander Grebenkin, a former Russian military officer.

Michael Barratt, a doctor on his third mission, is the oldest full-time astronaut to fly in space. He turns 65 in April.

“It's kind of like a rollercoaster ride with a bunch of really excited teenagers,” Mr Barratt said after reaching orbit. As for his age, he said before the flight: “As long as we stay healthy and fit and engaged, we’re good to fly."

Flight controllers are monitoring a growing cabin leak on Russia’s side of the space station.

The leak has doubled in size in the past few weeks and the area has been sealed off, NASA programme manager Joel Montalbano said.

He stressed there is no impact to station operations or crew safety.

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