SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to the International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off carrying four astronauts on a six-month expedition to the International Space Station, ...

Cape Canaveral, Fla. ( Associated Press) — SpaceX launched four astronauts for NASA to the International Space Station on Wednesday, less than two days after completing a flight chartered by millionaires.

It is NASA’s first crew to consist of equally men and women, including Jessica Watkins, the first black woman to have built a long-haul spaceflight.

“It’s one of the most diverse, I think, crews that we’ve had in a really, really long time,” said NASA’s space operations mission chief Cathy Laiders.

The astronauts were due to arrive at the space station Wednesday night, 16 hours after a prior liftoff from Kennedy Space Center that thrilled onlookers.

“Anyone who saw it realized what a beautiful projection it was,” Lieders told reporters. After an express flight equivalent to a trip from New York to Singapore, the crew will proceed for a five-month stay.

SpaceX has now launched five crew and two private trips for NASA in just two years. Elon Musk’s company has been a particularly busy few weeks: It just finished taking three businessmen to and from the space station as NASA’s first private guests.

A week after the new crew arrives, the three Americans and the Germans they are replacing will return to Earth in their own SpaceX capsules. Three Russians also live on the space station.

Officials from both SpaceX and NASA stressed that they are taking it one step at a time to ensure safety. There were no major problems in the private mission that ended on Monday, although strong winds delayed the spraying for a week, he said.

SpaceX Launch Control wished the astronauts moments of good luck and godspeed before the Falcon rocket was detonated by its crew with a capsule named Freedom.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who made this possible. Now let the Falcon roar and Freedom Ring,” said NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Commander. Minutes later, their reentry booster had landed on an ocean platform and their capsule was safely orbiting Earth. “It was a great ride,” he said.

Read more: The head of Russia’s space program says sanctions could jeopardize the space station’s future

SpaceX capsules are fully automated – which opens the door to space for a wider clientele – and they are designed to accommodate a wide range of body sizes. At the same time, NASA and the European Space Agency are pushing for more female astronauts.

While two black women visited the space station during the shuttle era, neither went on to stay for long. Watkins, a geologist who is on NASA’s shortlist for a moon-landing mission in the coming years, sees his mission as “an important milestone, I think, for both the agency and the country”. .

She credits supportive family and mentors—including Mae Jameson, the first black woman in space in 1992—for “finally being able to live my dream.”

Another geologist was also cheering on Watkins: Harrison Schmidt of Apollo 17, who walked on the Moon in 1972. He invited the retired astronaut along with his wife for the launch. “We consider ourselves Jessica’s team,” he said with a laugh.

“Those of us who ride the Saturn V in space are a little nervous about small rockets,” Schmidt said after SpaceX liftoff. “But still, it was really something and there was a geologist on board … I hope it puts him in a good position to be part of one of the Artemis crews going to the Moon.”

Read more: A former NASA astronaut’s perspective on what’s next in space exploration

Like Watkins, NASA astronaut and test pilot Bob Hines is making his first space flight. This is the second visit for Lindgren, a physician, and the European Space Agency’s lone female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, a former Italian Air Force fighter pilot.

Cristoforetti turns 45 on Tuesday, “so she really celebrates and is overjoyed with a big smile in the capsule,” said Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency. “She really is a role model and she’s doing an amazing job at doing just that.”

The recently completed private flight was NASA’s first plunge into space tourism after years of protests. The three people who paid $55 million to visit the space station, the space agency said, mixed experiments and educational outreach. He was accompanied by a former NASA astronaut employed by Houston-based Axiom Space, which arranged the flight.

“The International Space Station is not a vacation spot. It is not an amusement park. It is an international laboratory, and they fully understand and respect that purpose,” said NASA Flight Director Zeb Scoville.

NASA also hired Boeing to ferry astronauts after retiring the shuttle. The company will take another shot at getting an empty crew capsule to the space station next month, after software and other problems halted its 2019 test flight and halted again last summer.

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.


Related Stories