Astronaut Shannon Walker at the International Space Station. Source: NASA
NASA has not launched astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil since 2011. The agency has been booking Russian launch services to send astronauts to the orbiting laboratory. This year, SpaceX will collaborate with NASA under a Commercial Crew Program contract to launch crewed missions from the United States for the first time in nearly a decade. The first crewed mission aboard SpaceX's upgraded Dragon spacecraft that will be performed is referred to as Demo-2. The Demo-2 mission will carry NASA astronauts Robert 'Bob' Behnken and Doug Hurley to the space station sometime in mid-to-late May. They will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker has been assigned to the first operational crewed flight of @SpaceX's Crew Dragon, bound for the @space_station!— Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) March 31, 2020
Pending a successful Demo-2 test, Walker, @Astro_illini, @VicGlover and @Astro_Soichi will launch this year. https://t.co/eYUN1Zt6Y0 pic.twitter.com/Fi4hCEZV3W
After the first crewed mission proves successful, NASA and SpaceX will perform the first operational mission to ISS, which will become the second crewed flight. The crew who will fly aboard Dragon's second mission will be NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover Jr., and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Today, NASA announced it assigned Shannon Walker, a female veteran astronaut, to join the crew on "the first operational crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station." The first operational mission will take place later this year. The crew will stay six months at the ISS laboratory. NASA representatives wrote in a press release March 31:
"This mission will be the first in a series of regular, rotational flights to the station following NASA’s certification of the new crewed system following completion and validation of SpaceX’s test flight with astronauts, known as Demo-2. This test is expected to take place in mid-to-late May as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program."
Astronaut Shannon Walker is a flight engineer from Houston, Texas. She studied at Rice University, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics in 1987, a Master of Science and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Space Physics in 1992 and 1993. Walker's professional career began in 1987, as a robotics flight controller at NASA's Johnson Space Center. In 1995, she worked for NASA on avionics and robotics for the space station. Dr. Walker was selected by NASA in 2004 as part of the 19th class of astronauts. In 2010, she spent a total of 163 days aboard the orbiting space station during Expeditions 24 and 25. Where conducted more than 130 microgravity experiments ranging from research in biology and biotechnology to technology development in Earth and space sciences. Astronaut Walker also conducted three extravehicular activity missions, spacewalks. In which she was tasked to remove and replace a failed pump module outside the station.
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