NASA: SpaceX Launches 4 Astronauts To International Space Station
A SpaceX spacecraft has launched four astronauts into outer space on Sunday, marking the beginning of what National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hopes will be years of the company helping to keep the International Space Station fully staffed.
NASA astronauts, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan’s space agency, are now in orbit, riding aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that is expected to dock with ISS on Monday at 11 pm ET. That means the crew will spend 27 hours in orbit as the spacecraft slowly maneuvers toward its destination.
The trip would have been shorter if the Crew Dragon were able to launch on Saturday, as NASA first planned, because ISS would have lined up in such away as to allow the spacecraft to reach the space station in about eight hours.
However, bad weather brought by Hurricane Eta forced launch officials to delay takeoff to Sunday evening.
The capsule has a working restroom, and the astronauts will have time to get some sleep as the fully autonomous vehicle maneuvers through orbit while SpaceX and NASA officials in Houston, Texas, and Hawthorne, California, watch over the journey.
This is a landmark mission for NASA and the company because it is the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, following up a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was officially certified as a spacecraft worthy of carrying people last week, paving the way for it to begin making the trip relatively routine, carrying astronauts from a variety of backgrounds.
On this mission, for example, both Walker and Noguchi have backgrounds in physics. The Crew-1 team is slated to conduct all sorts of experiments during their six-month stay on ISS, including research into how microgravity affects human heart tissue.
They will also attempt to grow radishes in space to build on studies designed to figure out how food might be grown to sustain deep-space exploration missions.
The United States spent nearly a decade without the ability to launch astronauts into space after the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and NASA was forced to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts to ISS, which the space agency says left the multibillion-dollar orbiting laboratory understaffed.
As many as 13 astronauts were on board at one time in 2009. That number has occasionally dropped to as low as three on several occasions, which leaves fewer people to help run experiments and help keep the space station well maintained. With this launch, it will grow to seven.