SpaceX launches another historic astronaut mission

Liftoff occurred at 3:52 a.m. ET. The astronauts, riding aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, will spend the day freely flying through orbit before docking with the International Space Station around 8 p.m. ET.

This mission, called Crew-4, marks a return to manned launches that SpaceX is conducting in partnership with NASA after the company concluded its first flight. A special mission to the space station For wealthy customers who pay on Mondays.

On board are NASA astronauts Gil Lindgren, Robert Haynes and Jessica Watkins and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti flying on behalf of the European Space Agency.

Here’s everything you need to know about Crew-4.

What makes this trip historic?

Jessica Watkins would become the first black woman to complete such a mission.

Although more than a dozen black Americans — including four black women — have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983, no black woman has had the opportunity to live and work in space for as long as the station. International Space. More than 200 astronauts have made it possible since 2000.

“This is definitely an important milestone and I think it is for us [space] “I think it’s really just a tribute to the legacy of the black female astronauts who came before me as well as to the exciting future ahead,” Watkins said during a news conference last month.

She has a long history with NASA, having started her career there as an intern, and previously held positions at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where she worked with Rover Curiosity Mars. A trained geologist, she studied the surface of the Red Planet.
Watkins’ co-workers refer to her by the nickname “What. ”

Who else is on this mission?

The crew for this mission is among the first to include as many women as the men.

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Cristoforetti, who was on a previous mission to the International Space Station in 2014-2015, is the only woman on the European Space Agency’s team of astronauts. But Cristoforetti told reporters last month that the situation “will be over very soon”.

“We definitely expect to have some great females [ESA] co-workers by the end of the year.

Cristoforetti, an Italian Air Force veteran who got her fighter pilot wings, joined the European Space Agency in 2009.

A Falcon 9 rocket containing a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule was used to launch the Crew-4 mission as seen on the launch pad on Saturday, April 23 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Haynes is a 22-year-old US Air Force veteran who will travel to space for the first time since he was named to NASA’s astronaut team in 2017.

Lindgren, the mission leader, is certified in emergency medicine, and before he was selected to fly to the sky himself, he worked as a flight surgeon on the ground at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, supporting other astronaut missions. Lindgren was born in Taiwan and spent most of his childhood in England before moving to the United States and attending the US Air Force Academy.

This group of four astronauts spent months training together, and took time to do some extracurricular bonding. Watkins noted that they went on a kayaking trip in eastern Washington “just to take the time to get to know each other and understand how we all work… and what makes each of us work, and I think that would be really crucial.”

“We get along really well,” Lindgren added. “It’s a pleasure to have these guys on this team.”

How do they get to space?

The crew will travel to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which has since Entering service in 2020Seven manned missions.

Although SpaceX has designed the Crew Dragon to be reusable and three capsules are already in service, the Crew-4 will fly on an all-new spacecraft.

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The astronauts get their capsule name, and they choose Crew Dragon “Freedom” for their ship.

The Crew Dragon was developed by SpaceX under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Program. The idea behind the program was to move NASA into a customer role – allowing private companies to design, build and test new spacecraft to serve NASA astronauts while still giving the company ownership of the vehicle.

Since SpaceX controls the vehicle, it has the ability to sell seats to whoever wishes, hence the all-private mission that the company has just concluded and an earlier space tourism mission that launched in September of last year.

At NASA, the program has been considered a huge success, and the space agency is adopting the same approach to contracting many of the vehicles involved in its efforts to Moon exploration.

What will they do in space?

After arriving Wednesday evening, the crew will be greeted by the group of astronauts already aboard the International Space Station — including three NASA astronauts and one European Space Agency astronaut who were part of SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission — and three Russian cosmonauts.

There will be a five-day delivery period, during which Crew-3 astronauts will help Crew-4 astronauts settle down, before the Crew-3 fly home aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Next, Crew-4 astronauts will work on all of the science experiments and space station maintenance duties on their task list.

According to NASA, “the experiments will include studies of the aging of immune systems, biomaterial substitutions, and cardiorespiratory effects during and after prolonged exposure to microgravity.” “These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will be conducted during their mission.”

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Crew-3 is scheduled to return from space in September, shortly after SpaceX launched its Crew-5 mission.

CNN’s Megan Marbles contributed.

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