CAP CANAVERAL, Florida – NASA’s next crew of astronauts are ready to fit into a SpaceX Dragon capsule and take to space.
The four astronauts must embark on the International space station (ISS) on SpaceX’s next crewed mission Thursday, April 22 at 6:11 a.m. EST (10:11 GMT). They practiced this launch day today (April 18) with a final dress rehearsal before dawn.
The Spaceflyers – NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Frenchman Thomas Pesquet and Japanese Akihiko Hoshide – arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Friday April 16 and have already started their final preparations for take-off, which included a quick chat with reporters broadcast from the astronaut crew quarters.
“It’s great to be here at the Kennedy Space Center,” Kimbrough, the Crew-2 mission commander, said during the discussion. “We already practiced this morning, yesterday we had to go to the platform to see the rocket and our spaceship, which is really exciting for us.”
“It’s great to be here,” added McArthur. “We are thrilled and ready to launch.”
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Crew-2 mission will see veteran SpaceX Falcon 9 launch refurbished rocket Crew dragon spaceship on a 23 hour trip to the space station. Take-off is scheduled for Thursday at 6:11 a.m. EDT (10:11 GMT) from KSC’s historic Pad 39A. If all goes as planned, the Crew Dragon – which was named Endeavor by its former crew – will dock with the ISS around 5.30am EDT (9.30am GMT) on Friday.
Their journey into orbit will be the first time the crew have not traveled to space on a new shiny Falcon 9 rocket; their thruster, which was deployed to the platform on Friday morning (April 16) for a scheduled static fire test before launch on Saturday (April 17), first flew in November while delivering the Crew-1 crew in space.
Crew-2 is the second operational contract mission to be launched under NASA’s Commercial Crew program. Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide will remain aboard the space station for a six-month mission.
“I just want to take a moment to thank the people who brought us here, who are preparing us and who are preparing all of this to make this happen,” said Crew-2 pilot Megan McArthur. “It’s a lot of people, including our families, of course, who sacrifice themselves along the way as we prepare.”
“And I really want to take every opportunity to say thank you because we know how much work it takes and we really appreciate it,” she added.
McArthur has been generating buzz lately for his sparkling taste in shoes. When she arrived at Kennedy Space Center, she wore her typical astronaut blues, with a pair of sparkly silver boots. When asked if she could comment on them, McArthur replied, “I don’t know if I can explain them, but I can show them again.”
“They are really great,” said Pesquet, his teammate on Friday after the crew arrived. “There was talk of all of us wearing them, but for some reason she was outvoted.”
McArthur said the boots brought him joy.
“I think it’s been a tough year for everyone, and I decided I needed a little more sparkle,” she said. “It’s just fun wearing them.”
But that’s not the only flair McArthur sports – a special patch that only a few astronauts have adorned his jacket. McArthur said she earned it on her shuttle flight to fix the Hubble Space Telescope.
“Hubble is in a different orbit than the space station, so to get there you have to travel faster with the main engine off (MECO) than on a typical mission,” McArthur explained. “So our commander had these patches made for us when we got home.”
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A launch for Earth Day
Crew-2 is scheduled to launch on April 22, which happens to be Earth Day.
“It means a lot to us [to launch on Earth day] because we all care about the Earth individually, but also because our agencies are at the forefront of the fight for the protection of the environment, ”Pesquet said when asked what he thought of leaving the country. planet on Earth day.
“It was only by going into space that we were able to take a step back and actually measure all the variables that allow scientists to determine what is happening to the planet,” he said.
Pesquet says that as astronauts, they are all part of the global effort to understand climate change and how humanity is affecting the planet. That through research in space, NASA and its partners are able to better assess the health of the planet and try to improve it, as the slogan goes, “out of Earth, for Earth “.
It’s a phrase McArthur says she thinks about whenever she leaves the planet. “When we go to space, we do a really amazing job for everyone here on Earth,” she said. “So it’s really special and humbling to be a part of something that is going to help people and all of humanity.”
“I think it’s a great symbol that we’re launching on Earth Day,” Pesquet added.
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This is the third crewed flight of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, and as such, the current crew have learned a thing or two from their previous flyers. McArthur’s husband and fellow astronaut Bob Behnken were one of the first two astronauts to fly the Dragon and spent several years helping SpaceX develop the vehicle before it took off.
She explained that her husband, Bob, flew the Crew Dragon last year as part of the demo mission and was in the same seat where she will be. Asked what advice he could have given her, she said that “he shared bits and pieces along the way, [about the vehicle], but no specific advice. ”
“However, I learned from him for several years as they developed the vehicle,” she said. “And then as I went through the training, I really had a framework to put some of this information.”
Previous crews have mentioned the sound of the Dragon and Falcon as they soar into orbit and this is one of the things Kimbrough and Hoshide look forward to at launch.
“For Shane and I, this will be our third spaceship that we leave Earth with,” Hoshide said. “We look forward to the growl and the G-forces pushing on our chests.”
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he added.
“It’s very heartwarming to know what to expect when you are going through a very dynamic phase,” said Kimbrough.
He explained that after each mission, NASA and SpaceX teams are able to increasingly streamline the training process through lessons learned and astronaut feedback. “We are truly the first crew to have a model-based training flow even though two others have gone before us,” he said. “So we’ve had a little less than a year of training, while the crews ahead of us have had several years of training.”
“I think it’s in the right place now and we’ll just continue to refine as we pursue our future missions.”
McArthur and the crew explained that they would continue the tradition of choosing a special zero-g indicator that will be used to signal when the crew has officially reached space as they climb into orbit.
On the unmanned SpaceX Demo-1 flight to the space station, which launched in March 2019, SpaceX put a plush earth toy in the Dragon’s cockpit so mission controllers can know when the craft has reached space. (The Stuffed Earth began to float around the cabin when this happened.) On Demo-2, Hurley and Behnken let their young sons choose the indicator.
The boys chose a pink and blue glitter dinosaur, while the Crew-1 crew chose a plush baby yoda. Asked what the indicator would be this time around and if McArthur’s son could help pick a second toy, McArthur said that “our crew will have a zero G indicator that we have chosen together”.
“We all have sons and daughters who belong to this mission,” she said, “so our families have chosen an indicator that you will see once we hit zero-G.”
Unlike crews in Russia who have their own pre-launch traditions that don’t really include rocket visualization, Crew-2 astronauts were able to carry on SpaceX’s tradition of taking crews to see their rocket before launch day. launch.
“We got on the plane here and got to fly close to the platform and see our rocket getting ready to go,” McArthur said. “There’s really nothing quite like looking out the window and seeing a spaceship getting ready and realizing you’re going to be rolling over it in a few days.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” she said.
After a brief media chat after stepping off the plane, the quartet of astronauts were treated to a close and personal view of their rocket.
“When we got to the rocket, we were laughing,” Kimbrough told Space.com. “I think we all couldn’t believe it was our rocket.”
He said when they got to the platform the rocket was not completely vertical and they could watch the rocket move vertically on the launch pad. “It was really neat to see him go about half the height, up to the upright position, and then see the crew’s access arm swinging,” said Kimbrough. “It was pretty special.”
“It looks fabulous,” Hoshide said. “We can’t wait to pilot it and fly on it.”
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