Astronauts spent 16 hours around their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft after its pre-dawn launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:52 a.m. ET. The capsule, which is completely autonomous, orbits Earth more than a dozen times, maneuvering close to the International Space Station before making precise, accurate contact with one of the space station’s docks at 7:37 p.m. ET.
On board are NASA astronauts Jill Lindgren, Robert Haynes, 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 is the first black woman to join the space station crew for an extended stay.
Although more than a dozen black Americans—including four black women—have traveled to space since Guion Bluford was the first to do so in 1983, no black woman has had the opportunity to live in space as long as the station and work. room. Since 2000, this has made possible more than 200 astronauts.
“This is definitely an important milestone and I think it is for us as well [space] “I think it’s really just a tribute to the legacy of the black female astronauts who came before me and the exciting future that lies ahead,” Watkins said at a news conference last month.
Who else is on this mission?
The crew for this mission is among the first to include an equal number of women and men.
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 are definitely expecting some amazing women [ESA] colleagues at the end of the year.
Cristoforetti, an Italian Air Force veteran who got her fighter pilot wings, joined the European Space Agency in 2009.
Haynes is a 22-year-old US Air Force veteran, and this is the first time he has traveled to space since he was assigned to the NASA astronaut team in 2017.
Lindgren, the mission manager, is certified in emergency medicine, and before he was chosen to fly into 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 trained together for months and took the time to make extracurricular contacts. Watkins noted that they went on a kayak tour of eastern Washington “just to take the time to get to know each other and understand how we all work…
“We get along very well,” added Lindgren. “It is a pleasure to have these guys on this team.”
How did they get into space?
While the SpaceX Crew Dragon is designed to be reusable, and three capsules are already in use, the Crew-4 flies aboard an all-new spacecraft, which they dubbed “Freedom.”
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 give NASA the role of the customer – 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 drives the car, it can sell the seats to whomever it wants, hence the completely special mission the company has just completed and launched a previous space tourism mission last September.
What will they do in space?
Now that they’ve arrived at the International Space Station, the crew will be taken by the seven astronauts already aboard the International Space Station – including three NASA astronauts and an ESA astronaut who were part of SpaceX’s Crew 3 mission, and three Russian astronauts.
There is a delivery window of approximately five days, during which the Crew 3 astronauts help the Crew 4 astronauts settle down, before the Crew-3 flies home aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Next, Crew-4 astronauts will work on all of the space station’s science experiments and maintenance tasks on their to-do list.
According to NASA, “Experiments will include studies of immune system aging, tangible alternatives to organic matter, and cardio-respiratory 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.”
Crew-4 is expected to return from space in September, shortly after SpaceX launches its Crew-5 mission.
CNN’s Megan Marbles contributed.
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