Featured Image Source: ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet via Twitter.
SpaceX became the first American private company to successfully launch and return NASA Astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) this year, under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. In May, a Falcon 9 rocket launched NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft during a demonstration mission called Demo-2; meant to certify the capsule is safe to carry out crewed voyages. After two months at the orbiting laboratory, the brave duo returned on August 2 aboard the craft -splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. It was SpaceX’s first crewed mission that finally returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States after NASA relied on Russian spacecraft to deploy astronauts for almost a decade.
SpaceX is now preparing to launch four astronauts on its second crewed flight. It will be the first operational mission, referred to as Crew-1, scheduled to liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 23rd. The four astronauts that will ride Crew Dragon during next month’s Crew-1 mission are three NASA astronauts and one Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut. With NASA are: Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, joint-commander Pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, along with JAXA mission specialist Soichi Noguchi. Crew-1 astronauts will stay at the orbiting laboratory for around 6 months conducting scientific experiments in microgravity.
When they return, SpaceX will launch its third crewed flight, Crew-2, to the Space Station; scheduled to launch in Spring 2021. The members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission are: NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
NASA Astronaut Megan McArthur is Robert Behnken’s wife. When Behnken returned aboard Dragon in August he told reporters – “My wife is assigned to a SpaceX mission and we have a young son, so, I’ll definitely be focused on making sure that her mission is as successful as possible; And supporting her just as she did for me.” [video below]
So this guy is pretty great, right? https://t.co/VIeRstndAf— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) August 4, 2020
ESA Astronaut Pesquet revealed Crew-2 has been actively training for “Mission Alpha” aboard Crew Dragon. He shared photographs via Twitter of him training on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon simulator which involves learning how to control the spacecraft’s functions via a trio of touchscreen displays. – “Here's the posse together, training on @SpaceX crew dragon. @Aki_Hoshide looking like a boss, and all of us wishing we had as cool socks as our awesome pilot @Astro_Megan. #MissionAlpha,” he wrote. During training, all astronauts are wearing face masks to protect each other from the coronavirus respiratory illness, pictured below.
Here's the posse together, training on @SpaceX crew dragon. @Aki_Hoshide looking like a boss, and all of us wishing we had as cool socks as our awesome pilot @Astro_Megan. #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/UCDJvTcRgp— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) September 23, 2020
To familiarize with the spacecraft, the astronauts train with an interactive simulator and touchscreen interface that is a replica of Dragon’s cockpit. Earlier this year, SpaceX released an online game that allows players to try to dock the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the Space Station, using similar controls the astronauts will use during their voyage in space. You can play the online game on SpaceX's website: Crew Dragon Simulator
Pesquet also shared four photographs (shown below) featuring different cockpits – “Who doesn't like cockpits? 45 years of cockpit evolution in these pictures, I am lucky to have been at the controls of the Soyuz spacecraft, the Airbus A310, the A350, and now the SpaceX Crew Dragon (during training, so far). #Avgeeks,” he wrote.
Who doesn't like cockpits? 45 years of cockpit evolution in these pictures, I am lucky to have been at the controls of the #Soyuz spacecraft, the @Airbus A310, the A350, and now the @SpaceX Crew Dragon (during training, so far). #Avgeeks pic.twitter.com/9k7zjobQcJ— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) September 17, 2020
“Now things are getting real and I could use your help. When going to space astronauts are allowed a very limited amount of personal affairs – think less than half an overhead cabin bag. What would you want to see floating in space? #MissionAlpha,” Pesquet asked his Twitter followers, to prepare for his flight aboard Crew Dragon next year.
Now things are getting real and I could use your help. When going to space astronauts are allowed a very limited amount of personal affairs – think less than half an overhead cabin bag ✈️🧳. What would you want to see floating in space? #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/9NhJe51JUD— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) September 19, 2020