The astronauts orbited their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for 16 hours after pre-sunrise Eve at 3:52 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The fully autonomous capsule orbited the Earth more than ten times, maneuvering close to the ISS before making a smooth, precise contact at one of the space station’s docking ports at 7:37 pm ET.
The ship includes NASA astronauts Gazelle Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti flying on behalf of the European Space Agency.
Here’s everything you need to know about Crew-4.
What makes this aircraft historically significant?
Jessica Watkins was the first black woman to stay on the space station crew for a long time.
Although a dozen black Americans – including four black women – have gone into space since Guion Bluford first went into space in 1983, not a single black woman has the opportunity to live or work long in space. Has helped make more than 200 astronauts since 2000.
“I think this is definitely an important milestone for both of us [space] “For the agency and the country,” Watkins said at a news conference last month.
Who else is involved in this work?
The team on this mission was one of the first to include women on an equal footing with men.
Cristoforetti, who served on the ISS before 2014-2015, is the only woman on ESA’s astronaut team. But Cristoforetti told reporters last month that the situation would “end very soon.”
“We definitely expect some great women [ESA] Colleagues by the end of this year, “he added.
Cristoforetti, a veteran of the Italian Air Force, received his fighter pilot wings and joined the ESA in 2009.
Hines has 22 years of experience in the U.S. Air Force, and this is the first time he has flown into space since he was selected to the NASA astronaut team in 2017.
The commander for the mission, Lindgren, was certified in emergency medicine, and before he was selected to fly himself, he worked as an aerial surgeon on the ground at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, supporting other astronauts. Lindgren was born in Taiwan and spent most of his childhood in England before moving to the United States and attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The team of four astronauts has been training for several months. Watkins noted that they went on a kayaking trip in eastern Washington “to spend some time getting to know each other and understanding how we all function … and what ticks each of us, I think it would be very important.”
“We behave well. These guys are so happy to be on this team,” Lindgren added.
How did they get into space?
Although SpaceX designed the Crew Dragon to be reusable, three capsules are already in service, with the Crew-4 flying in a brand new spacecraft, which they named “Freedom”.
The Crew Dragon was developed by SpaceX under a $ 2.6 billion deal with NASA as part of the “Commercial Crew Program”. The idea behind the project is to move NASA into a customer role – allowing private companies to design, build and test a new spacecraft to serve NASA astronauts, while at the same time granting enterprise ownership over the vehicle.
As SpaceX controls the vehicle, it has the ability to sell seats to whomever it wants, so the company has recently completed all private work and an earlier space tourism mission launched in September last year.
What will they do in space?
Now that they have arrived on the ISS, the crew will be trapped with seven astronauts already on the ISS – including three NASA astronauts and one ESA astronaut and three Russian astronauts who were part of SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission.
Before the Crew-3 astronauts return home in their own SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the Crew-3 astronauts will have about five days to hand over to the Crew-4 astronauts to settle down.
The Crew-4 astronauts will serve on all the scientific experiments and space station maintenance duties on their to-do list.
“Tests include aging studies of immune systems, concrete substitutes for organic matter, and cardiospatial effects during and after prolonged exposure to microgravity,” NASA said. “These are just some of the more than 200 scientific experiments and technology demonstrations that have taken place during their mission.”
Shortly after SpaceX launched its Crew-5 mission, the Crew-4 will return from space in September.
Contributed by CNN Megan Marbles.
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