Crew-7 Mission Blasts Off with Four Astronauts on Board

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission, dubbed Crew-7, is the sixth operational crew launch for NASA under the Commercial Crew Program and the first to include three international astronauts.

A Historic Launch for SpaceX and NASA

The launch of Crew-7 marks several milestones for SpaceX and NASA, as well as for the partner agencies ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency). This is the first time that a non-NASA astronaut, ESA’s Andreas Mogensen from Denmark, will pilot a Dragon spacecraft. It is also the first time that a Dragon capsule will dock with the ISS’s new Nauka module, which was launched by Roscosmos in July. Additionally, this is the third mission for the Endurance capsule, which previously flew on Demo-2 and Crew-2 missions, making it the most reused crewed spacecraft in history.

Crew-7 Mission Blasts Off with Four Astronauts on Board
Crew-7 Mission Blasts Off with Four Astronauts on Board

The four crew members of Crew-7 are:

  • NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, the mission commander and a former helicopter and Marine Corps test pilot. She is the first Iranian-American astronaut to fly to space and the second woman of color to command a Dragon spacecraft.
  • ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, the pilot and a former aerospace engineer and professor. He is the first Danish citizen to fly to space twice and the first ESA astronaut to fly on a commercial vehicle.
  • JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, a mission specialist and a physician. He is the second Japanese astronaut to fly on a Dragon spacecraft and the fourth to spend more than six months in orbit.
  • Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, a mission specialist and a former military pilot. He is the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on a Dragon spacecraft and the third to fly under a commercial contract with NASA.

The crew will join the Expedition 69/70 crew on board the ISS and conduct various scientific experiments, maintenance tasks, and outreach activities during their six-month stay.

A Smooth Ride to Orbit

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Endurance capsule lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at 3:32 a.m. EDT (0732 GMT) on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. The launch was delayed by one day due to unfavorable weather conditions at the launch site and along the ascent corridor. The rocket performed flawlessly, delivering the capsule into orbit about 12 minutes after liftoff. The first stage of the rocket landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, marking the 99th successful landing for SpaceX.

The Endurance capsule separated from the second stage and began its autonomous rendezvous with the ISS. The crew performed several checkouts of the spacecraft systems and enjoyed some leisure time before preparing for docking. The capsule docked with the Nauka module’s forward port at 5:12 a.m. EDT (0912 GMT) on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, about 26 hours after launch. The crew opened the hatches and were welcomed by their ISS colleagues at 7:05 a.m. EDT (1105 GMT).

A Busy Schedule Ahead

The Crew-7 astronauts will join NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov on board the ISS. The station will host a record-breaking 11 crew members until Sept. 8, when Vande Hei, Novitskiy, and Dubrov will depart on their Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft.

The Crew-7 astronauts will participate in several scientific experiments during their stay, such as studying how microgravity affects human health, plant growth, materials science, and biotechnology. They will also conduct spacewalks to install new solar arrays, repair equipment, and test new technologies. Additionally, they will receive several cargo resupply missions from SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, and JAXA, as well as welcome new crew members from SpaceX’s Crew-8 mission in October.

The Crew-7 mission is expected to last until March 2024, when the Endurance capsule will undock from the ISS and return to Earth with its four crew members. The capsule will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, where it will be recovered by SpaceX boats.

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