Four astronauts have launched to the Space Station with SpaceX
Steph Deschamps / November 11, 2021
Three American astronauts and a German flew on Wednesday evening for a six-month mission in orbit on the International Space Station, a launch that was postponed several times and was initially scheduled to take place ten days ago.
They must replace the crew that just left the ISS, which included Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, who returned to Earth on Monday night.
They were launched from Florida by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday night at 21:03 local time. Their Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the station Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
Their liftoff was greeted by loud applause in the SpaceX control room.
They were initially supposed to leave at the end of October but the takeoff was delayed several times, notably because of the weather, then because of a minor health problem of one of the astronauts -- on which NASA did not provide more details.
The mission is called Crew-3 because it is the third operational mission to the ISS performed by SpaceX on behalf of NASA.
But this is actually the fifth time that Elon Musk's company has launched humans into orbit: before Crew-1 and Crew-2, a test mission (Demo-2) carried two astronauts to the ISS. And in September, SpaceX also launched four tourists for three days in space, independently of NASA.
The crew of Crew-3 embarked Wednesday in a brand new Dragon capsule, whose copy was named Endurance.
For the American Tom Marshburn, it will be the third stay in space. He has already flown aboard a space shuttle in 2009, then a Soyuz rocket in 2012-2013.
The three other astronauts will make the trip for the first time. Matthias Maurer will be the twelfth German to be in orbit.
They will be welcomed by the American Mark Vande Hei, who stayed up there and celebrated his birthday on Wednesday, alone in the American segment of the station. Two Russian cosmonauts are also on board.
The mission will include many experiments. One of them is to observe the effects of the diet on the intestinal flora and the immune system of the astronauts, their defenses being often weakened by a prolonged stay in space. They will have the opportunity to consume a wider selection of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables (squash, kale...) as well as barramundi, a fish.
Crew-3 astronauts will also perform spacewalks to continue the installation of new solar panels on the ISS.
And they will host two tourist missions: Japanese brought by a Russian Soyuz spacecraft at the end of the year, then in February 2022 passengers of the Ax-1 mission, organized by the company Axiom Space in partnership with SpaceX.