Another group of astronauts launched to the International Space Station from Florida on Wednesday night, SpaceX’s third operational crewed flight in less than a year.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron and the European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer lifted off on time at 9:03 p.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center’s 39A launch pad. On Thursday, following a 22-hour journey through space, the Crew Dragon capsule, which Crew-3 named Endurance, will reach the ISS for a six-month stay.
“We wish you a great mission. Godspeed. And enjoy the launch,” mission control called out to the astronauts shortly before liftoff.
The launch was originally scheduled for Oct. 31 but was delayed multiple times because of bad weather and after one of the astronauts experienced a “minor medical issue” that NASA would not release details about. The agency would only say the issue was not COVID-19 related.
“Sometimes when you try to fly on Halloween, you get a trick instead of a treat,” Chari told mission control in the final minutes before launch.
All but one of the crew members are space rookies.
Chari, an Air Force colonel and test pilot of Cedar Falls, Iowa, is commanding the mission and has also been selected for future lunar missions as part of NASA’s Artemis program returning humans to the moon.
Marshburn, of Statesville, North Carolina, has been an astronaut since 2004 and will pilot Endurance. Crew-3′s second-in-command, Mashburn previously was a flight surgeon at Johnson Space Center in Houston and medical operations lead for the ISS. He’s flown to space twice before, first in 2009 aboard the Shuttle Endeavour and on Russia’s Soyuz in 2013.
Barron, from Richland, Washington, will act as a mission specialist. Previously, she served in the Navy and was deployed three times aboard the submarine USS Maine. The other mission specialist will be Maurer, from the German state of Saarland. Although Maurer has never been to space, in 2016 he spent 16 days on NASA’s undersea Extreme Environment Mission Operations experiment.
The Crew-3 mission is part of Elon Musk and NASA’s overall mission to send human missions to the ISS one after another, ending America’s reliance on Russia, which charges about $80 million for a seat on its Soyuz rocket.
Crewed launches from U.S. soil ended in 2011 when the shuttle program shut down and did not resume until May 2020 when SpaceX flew a successful test flight to the ISS with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
Recently, the director of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said cosmonauts would be allowed to fly on SpaceX’s rocket and capsule, now that it has completed several missions and proven reliable. Russia had previously expressed concerns about SpaceX’s lack of experience.
The new crew will join three astronauts who are already on board, Mark Vande Hei, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, who flew up on the Soyuz as part of the Expedition 66 team.
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