CNN

SpaceX’s fifth crewed launch takes off

Nov 10, 2021, 7:33 PM
Crew 3 astronauts, from left, European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, of Germany, NASA ast...
Crew 3 astronauts, from left, European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, of Germany, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron gather for a photo after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The mission with a crew of four astronauts will launch aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A early Sunday to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

  (CNN) — A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts roared into outer space atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday, marking the kick off of SpaceX’s fifth crewed mission to orbit.

The spacecraft, with three NASA astronauts and one European astronaut onboard, will spend all day Wednesday maneuvering closer to the International Space Station (ISS), where it’ll dock late Thursday kicking off a six-month science and research mission.

The astronauts will spend the next day strapped inside their spacecraft as it maneuvers through orbit and prepares to link up with the ISS, which orbits more than 200 miles above Earth’s surface.

Docking is scheduled for 7:10 pm ET Thursday.

This mission, called Crew-3, is the fourth mission in a partnership between SpaceX and NASA to make routine trips to the ISS in order to keep the 21-year-old space station adequately staffed. That’s something NASA has wanted to have more control over since its Space Shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving Russia as the only country with the ability to provide ISS transportation.

But SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is far from another space shuttle. The company still owns and operates the vehicle and NASA is considered just another customer for these missions.

In fact, the four professional astronauts on the Crew-3 mission —NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as the European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer — will be the first to board a Crew Dragon since SpaceX’s Inspiration4 all-civilian tourist mission. That mission carried four people, none of whom were professional astronauts, on a three-day space flight that orbited higher than any spacecraft has traveled since the moon missions of the 1970s.

In a press conference earlier this week, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager described the Inspiration mission as a “gift” because it brought issues with a key component on the Crew Dragon spacecraft — the toilet — into the spotlight so the problem could be fixed for future NASA missions.

“The Inspiration4 crew were alerted to an issue with the onboard toilet’s fan, which is used to create suction that is necessary when going to the bathroom in microgravity. After the spacecraft returned home, SpaceX disassembled the capsule and found “contamination.”

“There’s a storage tank where the the urine goes to be stored [and] there’s a tube that came disconnected or came unglued,” said William Gerstenmaier, a former associate administrator at NASA who now works as SpaceX’s head of mission assurance, during a press conference last month. “That allowed urine essentially to not go into the storage tank, but essentially go into the fan system.”

The issue also prevented a group of astronauts from using their Crew Dragon spacecraft’s on-board toilet during their trek back to Earth from the International Space Station on Monday. The astronauts had found their capsule also had evidence of “contamination” from a leaky toilet, according to NASA. They were forced instead to rely on undergarments — essentially adult diapers — during their nine-hour return trip.

The Crew-3 launch comes after another group of four astronauts returned from the ISS on Monday, capping off the mission dubbed Crew-2.

Both of the flights came as SpaceX and NASA worked to troubleshoot issues with the design of the toilet onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. The issue left the Crew-2 astronauts without a bathroom option during their nine-hour return flight from the ISS on Monday.

NASA and SpaceX said the issue had been fixed on the capsule used to launch the Crew-3 mission Wednesday.

SpaceX had intended to launch this mission, called Crew-3, on Halloween, but liftoff was delayed because of some rough weather over the Atlantic Ocean that could’ve impacted rescue operations if the rocket were to misfire and force the astronauts to make an emergency splashdown landing in the ocean. Crew Dragon’s ability to jettison a crew to safety if something goes wrong is one of the reasons the space agency says it is among the safest spacecraft ever flown.

Such an emergency exit has never had to be carried out by SpaceX, but having that option — and ensuring a recovery could be smoothly executed — is one of the reasons the space agency says Crew Dragon is among the safest spacecraft ever flown.

The flight was then delayed further by a “medical issue involving one of the Crew-3 astronauts,” according to NASA. The issue was not a medical emergency nor was it Covid-related, the space agency said, though it declined to give further details.

 

Meet the Crew-3 astronauts

Kayla Barron, who has a a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017 and comes directly from a field of work that involves extreme living conditions and long bouts of isolation: submarines. Barron became one of the first women ever to serve on a Navy submarine back in 2010.

“It wasn’t until I had that experience of living and working beneath the surface of the ocean and made the connection to living and working in the vacuum of space and understanding the kind of team it took to do that successfully,” Barron told reporters last month. “All those parallels are what gave me the confidence to…apply [for NASA’s astronaut corps] in the first place.”

Raja Chari also joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2017 as one of its newest inductees, and marks his first flight to space. He has a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School, which has a long history of providing a pipeline to the astronaut corps.

Chari and Barron have also both been selected for NASA’s corps of Artemis astronauts, who could fly on future missions to the Moon. Barron added that taking a trip to the ISS is “the best possible training for us” to prepare for an eventual lunar mission, “in terms of personal development and the opportunity to learn from experienced people.”

It’s also the first time in space for Germany’s Matthias Maurer of the ESA, who’ll have the opportunity to conduct a spacewalk and activate a new robotic arm, which was recently transported to the space station aboard a Russian spacecraft.

“This arm will be able to bring science payloads through an Russian airlock from the inside of the station towards the outside, and then we [will be] able to run experiments on the outside without performing a spacewalk,” he said.

The mission’s pilot, NASA’s Tom Marshburn, is the sole veteran astronaut among the crew. He has a background in physics and holds a doctorate of medicine, and he first joined NASA in the early 1990s as a flight surgeon. He joined the official astronaut corps in 2004 and has previously flown on one Space Shuttle mission and one Russian Soyuz mission to the ISS.

When asked what he’s most looking forward to, Marshburn told reporters that “certainly one of the pinnacles of your time up on board is having the opportunity to do a spacewalk, but what we’re doing day to day in the laboratory is going to be what many of us look forward to the most.”

The ISS has for two decades hosted astronauts from all over the world to conduct scientific research. The space station is unlike any laboratory in the world — in the microgravity environment, physical and biological phenomena aren’t bogged down by the Earth’s pull. So, doing the same experiment on the station that’s been done on the ground can give scientists a better fundamental understanding of how something works.

The research the Crew-3 astronauts will oversee includes an attempt to grow a “perfect crystal” to enhance our understanding of biological processes, a test of the impact of diet on astronaut health, and the testing of a smartphone video guidance sensor for guidance, navigation, and control of the Astrobee free-flying robot.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

WWE Essential...
Zoe Sottile, CNN

John Cena breaks Make-A-Wish record after granting 650 wishes

Actor, wrestling legend, and perpetual meme subject John Cena has completed a new accomplishment: breaking the world record for most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
19 hours ago
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi "had a direct and honest ...
Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister have ‘direct and honest exchange’ on Taiwan

Leaders from the United States and China have honest and direct exchange about Taiwan.
19 hours ago
Nancy Galarza looks at the damage that Hurricane Fiona inflicted on her community, which remained c...
Aya Elamroussi, Theresa Waldrop and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Hurricane Fiona likely to be ‘extreme weather event’ as it barrels toward eastern Canada, forecasters warn

Hurricane Fiona has weakened to Category 3 and will likely be extreme weather event as it approaches Canada.
19 hours ago
artemis cost...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Next launch attempt of Artemis I set for Tuesday, but could delay due to tropical depression

The Artemis I rocket will get its third launch attempt on Tuesday, September 27, but Tropical Depression Nine could change that.
2 days ago
The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, and Flor...
MJ Lee, CNN White House correspondent

Biden administration prepares for Abbott and DeSantis to send more migrants to Democratic cities

The Biden administration is readying for more migrants to be sent to Democratic cities.
2 days ago
Canadians are bracing for what could be the strongest storm to ever hit their country's coast. Phot...
Jennifer Gray and Allison Chinchar, CNN

Fearsome Hurricane Fiona could be Canada’s strongest-ever storm

Hurricane Fiona could be the strongest storm to ever hit Canada. And Canadians are preparing for it.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
SpaceX’s fifth crewed launch takes off