The repeatedly delayed flight, launched on Wednesday evening, came just two days after SpaceX brought back four more astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS). They should have been up there to greet the newcomers, but NASA and Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX decided to change the order based on Monday’s ideal recovery time in the Gulf of Mexico and the They succeeded.
The spacecraft, called Endurance, will dock with the ISS on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. (12:10 a.m. GMT Friday).
“It was a great trip, better than we imagined,” mission commander Raja Chari said shortly after the spacecraft reached orbit.
NASA Chief Bill Nelson said on Twitter that he attended the launch.
“We see the power of American ingenuity before our eyes,” he wrote after the rocket took off, praising the NASA-SpaceX partnership.
“Godspeed, Crew-3 – I can’t wait to see all you accomplish!” “
NASA Associate Administrator and former astronaut Bob Cabana called the launch “fantastic.”
“I think it’s an incredible time for the US space program. We are definitely at an inflection point, ”he added.
The launch was equally mesmerizing to spectators at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, as well as along the East Coast, as the Falcon rocket raced through the clouds en route to space, turning night into day. .
Germany’s Matthias Maurer claimed the 600th position, according to NASA, based on his mission. He and his three NASA teammates will arrive at the space station more than a week late.
One of the astronauts – NASA does not say which one – was sidelined last week by an undisclosed medical issue. The crew member is fully recovered, according to NASA. Officials will not say whether it was an illness or injury, but noted that it was not COVID-19.
Bad weather also contributed to their flight delays. Chari said trying to get started on Halloween left them with “a trick instead of a treat.” It was also raining Wednesday night when the four astronauts said goodbye to their families for six months – with everyone huddling under umbrellas – but that cleared up by launch time.
“Enjoy your vacation among the stars. We’ll let you know as you hover, ”SpaceX senior launch engineer Mark Soltys told the crew.
The list of 600 space travelers ranges from those who barely scratched space – like actor William Shatner last month – to American and Russian astronauts who have spent a year or more in orbit. The increase in the number of space tourists this year has pushed the 600 mark above.
This has averaged 10 people a year since Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin’s pioneer flight in 1961, Maurer noted.
“But I think in a very few years we will see an exponential increase in it because we are now entering the era of commercial spaceflight,” he said after arriving at Kennedy Space Center. two weeks ago.
The crew launch marked SpaceX’s fourth flight for NASA and the company’s fifth passenger flight overall – including a charter flight in September for four people that skipped the Space Station. The Dragon capsule toilets leaked during their three days in orbit, requiring a quick overhaul of the most recent capsule’s flushing system.
An imperfectly functioning parachute during Monday’s descent prompted SpaceX engineers to look into the data, before giving the go-ahead for Wednesday’s launch. One of the four falls opened more than a minute late, an issue found during testing and well within safe limits, but was still under investigation, officials said.
Musk’s company on Wednesday launched 18 people in 18 months.
“Human spaceflight was the reason we were founded, so it’s incredibly meaningful to the whole team,” said Sarah Walker, head of SpaceX.
The European Space Agency’s Mauer is one of three newcomers to the crew. The 51-year-old was a finalist when he first applied as an astronaut. Encouraged, he left his post as a researcher in a medical company and joined the space agency as an engineer, and had the astronaut cut in 2015.
Chari, 44, is an Air Force colonel and the first space recruit in decades to lead an in-orbit mission for NASA. Test pilot from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Chari has logged more than 2,500 hours in fighter jets, including combat missions in Iraq.
Dr Thomas Marshburn, 61, is also on board, who will be the oldest person to live aboard the space station and to conduct a spacewalk. Born in Statesville, North Carolina, he pursued a career in emergency medicine, then joined NASA in 1994 as an on-board surgeon. This is his third trip to the space station.
Kayla Barron, 34, a lieutenant commander in the Navy from Richland, Wash. Is also on board. She was among the first women to serve as officers of submarine warfare. Added to the May flight, she is the 601st person in space.
During their stay at the station, they will welcome two groups of tourists. A Russian film crew recently spent two weeks at the station making a film.
The new crew will join three station residents – two Russians and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei, who celebrated his 55th birthday on Wednesday.
“NASA and @SpaceX are lighting a big candle in the sky for you tonight,” NASA tweeted before the launch.
This candle – the first stage booster – landed vertically on an ocean barge.