SpaceX is on track to launch a series of crewed rotational missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew access to the space station and low-Earth orbit in partnership with American aerospace industry,” the agency states, “NASA’s contract with SpaceX is for six total crew missions to the orbiting laboratory. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.” To date, SpaceX has launched two out of the six crew missions to ISS. Crew-2 is currently working at the orbiting laboratory, they launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on April 23 and are scheduled to return in around six months.
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the astronaut crew who will be part of SpaceX's Crew-3 mission to the Space Station. NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn, will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, who will serve as a mission specialist. This will be the first spaceflight for Chari, who is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and has extensive experience as a test pilot. It will also be Maurer's first trip to ISS, he is from Germany and has done astronaut training and research at ESA. In 2016, Maurer spent 16 days on an undersea mission as part of a NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations, which prepare astronauts for long-duration missions in space. This week, the agency assigned another rookie astronaut to the Crew-3 mission, NASA astronaut Kayla Barron is the third crewmember that will also embark on her first voyage to space. Barron was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy before joining the astronaut corps in 2017. They will ride alongside veteran astronaut Marshburn who has traveled to space three times. He previously served as a crew member of STS-127 in 2009 and Expedition 34/35 in 2013. Marshburn has experience as a medical doctor; he served as flight surgeon at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, then became medical operations lead for ISS operations.
The Crew-3 mission is currently scheduled to liftoff on October 23rd, atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft from historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Crew-3 flight will be SpaceX’s third crewed operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. However, before they launch to space, the company plans to launch the Inspiration4 mission in September – which will be the first space tour that will launch four civilians to orbit Earth for around three days. So, Crew-3 will actually mark SpaceX’s fourth crewed mission overall.
ESA Astronaut Maurer revealed that they nicknamed the Crew-3 mission ‘Cosmic Kiss.’ He says the crew decided to call the mission ‘Cosmic Kiss’ because the name symbolizes ‘a declaration of love for space and the connection the International Space Station provides between human kind and the cosmos.’ “It communicates the special connection the Station provides between Earth’s inhabitants and the cosmos,” explains Maurer. “It also conveys the value of partnership in exploring farther to the Moon and Mars, alongside the need to respect, protect and preserve the nature of our home planet as we seek a sustainable future on Earth,” he said.
Featured Image Source: NASA