A SpaceX Crew Dragon rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida early on Friday morning and four astronauts from three countries began their six-month stay at the International Space Station with a successful launch from earth. The flight marked the third-ever crewed flight for Elon Musk’s company and is the next step toward commercial space travel.
— NASA (@NASA) April 23, 2021
Here is who is on board:
- Shane Kimbrough of the United States is the commander of Crew-2 at 53 years old. This is his third trip to space, having launched on the space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and spending October 2016 to April 2017 on the space station.
- Dr. K. Megan McArthur is also from the U.S. and will serve as the mission’s pilot. She is 49 years old and flew on the Atlantis in 2009 on a mission to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Telescope. She is married to Bob Behnken, who traveled on the most recent Space X flight last year.
- Akihiko Hoshide of Japan is 52 years old and has made two previous trips to space. He was on the Discovery shuttle in 2008 and spent four months on the space station in 2012
- Thomas Pesquet is the youngest of the bunch at 43 years old and hails from France. He spent six months with Kimbrough on the space station from Nov. 2016 to June 2017.
They spent their last afternoon on earth at the beach in Florida and enjoyed their last non-space food meal before getting some sleep and suiting up just after midnight on Friday.
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) April 22, 2021
6 months of space food after this! Thank you to the @NASA_Johnson and @NASAKennedy food lab and food services staff that have been keeping us healthy and well-fed during quarantine. The next time I post about food it will be floating! pic.twitter.com/GOvU2u8Xwy
— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) April 22, 2021
We're at L-1! On launch day, we'll be driving out to the pad about now. If you want to rock out with me, here's what I'll be playing:@foofighters Learn to Fly@ChiliPeppers Give it Away@OzzyOsbourne Crazy Train@Metallica Enter Sandman@GreenDay Waiting
What would you play?
— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) April 21, 2021
The astronauts spent hours being strapped into the SpaceX shuttle capsule before the Falcon 9 rocket fired its boosters and propelled the Crew Dragon space craft into space at more than 17,000 miles per hour.
The crew is expected to dock with the space station at 5:10 a.m. ET on Saturday, marking the first time in over 20 years that NASA, European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronauts are flying to an staying for a long duration mission on the ISS. They checked in and shared what life is like on board after they reached space and it’s pretty remarkable.
Watch Crew-2 astronauts check in LIVE from space!
— NASA (@NASA) April 23, 2021
While the launch may not seem like as big of a deal, considering that it was SpaceX’s third this year, it is actually the biggest yet. The Crew-2 mission was the first time that the company reused both a rocket and a capsule. To break it down in its most simple form, the “space shuttle” that you think of is actually split into three key parts— a capsule and two stages of a rocket.
The initial stage of the rocket is what blasts the shuttle into space and it burns through the ascent until its propellants are exhausted. The first stage engine is then dropped from the vessel.
— NASA (@NASA) April 23, 2021
Once the first stage separates, the second stage ignites and continues the ascent into space. When it has run out of fuel, it too separates.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 23, 2021
As the astronauts head to their destination in the capsule, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage returned to earth and landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. That has been done before, but what makes this mission so special is the capsule. This Crew-2 launched marked the first time that SpaceX had reused a capsule, in addition to the rockets. The same capsule that took Crew-1 to space is being used to take Crew-2, and McArthur sat in the same seat as her husband in May 2020.
Though the company has re-flown boosters and spacecraft many times before on satellite and cargo launches, this is the first time that SpaceX reused hardware for a crewed mission. With reusability as a long-made cornerstone of Musk and SpaceX’s business plan, the hope is that recovering and refurbishing hardware can significantly drive down the cost of spaceflight. Thus, this breakthrough can be considered the first step toward legitimate, (relatively) cost-effective space travel for the average person.
It also made for some incredible photographs from across the country, but mostly Florida.
SpaceX’s #Crew2 launched from the Kennedy Space Center this morning.
— BroBible (@BroBible) April 23, 2021
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, with Crew Dragon atop, as seen from #WaltDisneyWorld Resort, after launching early Friday morning, April 23, 2021, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (📷: David Roark, Kent Phillips) pic.twitter.com/D2bjdnH7nE
— Walt Disney World (@WaltDisneyWorld) April 23, 2021
— Universal Orlando Resort (@UniversalORL) April 23, 2021
— Astro Anthro (@Astro_ANTH) April 23, 2021
— Chris G – NSF (@ChrisG_NSF) April 23, 2021
That was the coolest launch I've seen!!!!! The white streak is the booster returning and being illuminated by the rising sun. Just stunning visually watching in person! #SpaceX #NASA #Crew2 pic.twitter.com/9EnQCAOBGR
— Tom McCool (@Cygnusx112) April 23, 2021
— Mike Killian (@KillianPhoto) April 23, 2021
The @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen in the distance behind the @uscapitol in Washington as it was launched from @NASAKennedy to @Space_Station. More launch photos coming, keep checking back! 📷 https://t.co/56Am0ERBaK pic.twitter.com/C7ZbImr7an
— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) April 23, 2021
— Chris Edens (@GuyWithGolden) April 23, 2021
Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide will join seven astronauts already on board the station, four of whom arrived on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule in November. The 11-person total will be one of the largest crews that the ISS has ever hosted, but it will drop back to seven when the four other SpaceX-launched astronauts head back to earth on April 28.
Friday’s four-person crew also brings the number of people that Musk has launched into space to 10. Pretty impressive.