16th November 2020
The Space X Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the Crew Dragon spacecraft lit up the dark landscape of the Launch Complex 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:27 pm EST on Sunday (2:27 am SAST on Monday) successfully launching NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) into orbit, headed for the International Space Station.
The astronauts will be on the space station for about six months on a science mission.
The Resilience Crew Dragon and its crew are expected to dock on the ISS around 11 pm EST on Monday (6 am SAST on Tuesday).
The Crew-1 is the first of 6 planned crewed missions that Nasa and SpaceX will fly according to the NASA Commercial Crew Program.
The mission is a first of many for the agency, namely as the first flight of the NASA-certified commercial system designed for crew transportation, which moves the system from development into regular flights, the first international crew of four to launch on an American commercial spacecraft, the first time the space station’s long-duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members, which will add to the crew time available for research and the first time that the Deferral Aviation Administration has licensed a human orbital spaceflight launch.
The mission, according to the NASA website, will see the crew conducting science and maintenance during their six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory, returning in early 2021.
"Crew Dragon also is delivering more than 500 pounds of cargo, new science hardware and experiments inside, including Food Physiology, a study of the effects of an optimized diet on crew health and, Genes in Space-7, a student-designed experiment that aims to better understand how spaceflight affects brain function, enabling scientists to keep astronauts healthy as they prepare for long-duration missions in low-Earth orbit and beyond.'
"Among the science and research investigations the crew will support during its six-month mission are a study using chips with tissue that mimics the structure and function of human organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and diseases and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth, growing radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space, and testing a new system to remove heat from NASA’s next generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU)," reads the website.
NASA said that the crew will also be accepting deliveries from the next-gen Space X cargo Dragon spacecraft, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, which will be undergoing an uncrewed test flight to the ISS.
The Crew-1 will also conduct spacewalks and welcome crews of the Russian Soyuz vehicle and the next SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2021.
With regards to their return, the Crew-1 astronauts will have it relatively easy, as the Crew Dragon will autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. NASA and SpaceX have set up seven splashdown sites located off Florida's east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico where the SpaceX recovery ship will pick up the crew and return to shore.
"NASA is delivering on its commitment to the American people and our international partners to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective missions to the International Space Station using American private industry. This is an important mission for NASA, SpaceX and our partners at JAXA, and we look forward to watching this crew arrive at station to carry on our partnership for all of humanity," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, was in awe of the rocket's launch, saying that the company could not be more proud of the work that they had done.