| 12 April 2024, Friday |

SpaxeX, NASA to launch astronauts from 3 different agencies for first time in 20 years 

According to NASA, SpaceX will launch 4 astronauts from 3 different agencies to a crowded International Space Station on Thursday, the MailOnline reported on Tuesday.

This is the second routine mission since crewed space flight resumed from U.S. soil, and the first NASA launch with 3 different agencies in almost twenty years.

Liftoff for the Crew-2 mission is planned for 11:11 BST on April 22, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with 2 NASA, 1 JAXA astronauts and 1 ESA.

The mission involves Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough from NASA, along with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Akihiko Hoshide, and the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Thomas Pesquet. All have flown to space before.

Thursday’s flight will reuse the booster rocket that was used in the Crew-1 mission, and the Crew Dragon capsule will be the same as that used in the test mission.

The last time astronauts from 3 different space agencies launched from U.S. soil was in 2002 on the Space Shuttle Endeavour, this time they will launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has firmly established itself as NASA’s best transportation provider as the agency waits on Boeing’s troubled Starliner to carry out key tests.

SpaceX’s first crewed test flight in May 2020 ended 9 years of U.S reliance on Russian rockets for flights to the ISS.

This happened after the demise of the NASA Space Shuttle program in 2011.

As he spoke to reporters ahead of the mission, Pesquet said his participation highlighted Europe’s commitment to space flight, saying it “means a lot.” ESA, which named the mission “Alpha” after the star Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own, has been part of the ISS program for twenty years.

Presquet said: “We intend to be part of what’s coming next,” referring to future partnerships including the Artemis program to the moon.

Pesquet said flying on the fully autonomous Crew Dragon was going to be a very different experience to his last flight on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

He said “the way it’s laid out is just amazing, you know all the time what’s going on,” adding that Soyuz is good but hard to understand what’s going on.

He also noted that learning to fly on Soyuz also took “much longer” than preparations to leave the Earth on the Crew Dragon capsule.

The 4 astronauts will overlap for a few days with the astronauts that flew to the ISS as part of Crew-1, before that team returns from its 6-month mission.

With 3 Russians on board, the station is set to become unusually crowded, accommodating a minimum of 11 people.

During their trip, the team will be tasked with carrying out multiple scientific experiments, with Pesquet singling out one examining the effects of weightlessness on brain organoids – mini brains created using stem cell technology – as a favorite.

Scientists hope this research can ultimately help space agencies plan for distance space missions which will expose crews to the rigors of space for long periods of time, and even help fight brain disease here on Earth.

  • Daily Mail