Three American and German astronauts are scheduled to travel Wednesday night on a six-month mission to the International Space Station, a flight that has been delayed several times originally scheduled for ten days.
They should replace the crew that just left the International Space Station, including Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, and returned to Earth at night from Monday to Tuesday.
It will be launched from Florida by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday evening at 9:03 pm local time (2:03 GMT Thursday). Their Dragon capsule should dock at the station on Thursday at 7:10 pm (00:10 GMT on Friday).
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Twitter that he will be there to take off.
NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, have been waiting in quarantine for days at the Kennedy Space Center.
They were initially scheduled to leave at the end of October, but the liftoff was delayed several times, mainly due to weather, and then a “minor health issue” with one of the astronauts – NASA did not provide further details.
So the space agency decided to return the Crew-2 crew, including Thomas Pesquet, to Earth before the Crew-3 launch. Thus, the delivery period between the crew, which usually takes place in zero gravity for a few days, did not take place.
The mission is called Crew-3, because it is the third operational operation of the International Space Station that SpaceX is offering on behalf of NASA.
But this is actually the fifth time Elon Musk has launched humans into orbit: Before Crew-1 and Crew-2, the Demo-2 test mission sent two astronauts to the International Space Station. And in September, SpaceX also launched four tourists for three days in space, regardless of NASA.
On Wednesday, the Crew-3 crew will debut the all-new Dragon capsule, the example of which has been dubbed “Endurance.”
For American Tom Marshburn, this will be the third time in space. He actually flew on a space shuttle in 2009, and then a Soyuz rocket in 2012-2013.
However, the other three astronauts will make the first flight.
Matthias Maurer will be the 12th German to end up in orbit.
They will be greeted by American Mark Vande Hee, who stayed there and celebrated his birthday on Wednesday, alone in the American part of the station. Also on board are two Russian cosmonauts.
The assignment will involve many experiences. One of them aims to monitor the effects of the diet on the intestinal flora and immune system of astronauts, their defenses often weakened by prolonged stays in space. They will therefore have the opportunity to consume a larger range of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables (zucchini, kale…) as well as barramundi.
Crew 3 astronauts will also conduct spacewalks, in particular to continue installing new solar panels on the International Space Station.
They will host two tourism expeditions: the Japanese brought in by the Russian Soyuz spacecraft at the end of the year, and then in February 2022 a passenger from the Ax-1 mission, organized by Axiom Space in partnership with SpaceX.
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