After delays, NASA & ESA astronauts lift-off for ISS aboard SpaceX craft

NASA/Joel Kowsky

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft ‘Endurance’ has launched four astronauts into space, where they will spend around six months on the International Space Station (ISS).

The international crew lifted off at 0203 UTC on November 11, 2021 from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The crew, known as Crew-3, comprises NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, plus European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer. It is the first trip to space for Charri, Baron and Maurer, but the third for Marshburn. 

German Maurer becomes the 600th person to fly to space and has chosen the name ‘Cosmic Kiss’ for his mission, which ESA explains is a declaration of love for space. 

Matthias Maurer is the second ESA astronaut to be launched in a Crew Dragon spacecraft under the U.S. Commercial Crew Program,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA director general. “We are delighted to see him fly alongside NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, continuing a long history of international collaboration in space for the benefit of Earth.”

Crew-3 will pick up where Crew-2 left off. The members of that crew, ESA’s Thomas Pesquet, NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, landed off the coast of Florida early on November 9, 2021, along with 240 kilograms of experience results.  

“With Raja, Thomas, Kayla and Mattias on their way to the International Space Station just days after Crew-2’s return, we’re seeing the power of American ingenuity right before our eyes,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement on November 11, 2021. “NASA’s partnership with SpaceX is not only critical for cutting-edge research, but also for international collaboration.” 

The launch of Crew-3 had suffered some delays, mainly due to weather concerns and a “minor medical issue” with one of the crew. It was initially planned for a handover to be done in space, before Crew-2 departed for Earth. 

“Fun fact, due to launch delays, we juuust missed out on having two people called Thomas in space,” ESA commented on social media.

Crew-3 are due to reach the ISS at 0010 UTC on Nov 12. Once there, they will conduct “new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and to benefit life on Earth,” NASA explained. 

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