SpaceX launches 4 astronauts for NASA

An undated photo from NASA shows the astronaut Stephen Robinson anchored to the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 in 2005. (Photo: NYTimes)
The third time was the charm for SpaceX launching astronauts to space, just like the first two missions in the past year by Elon Musk’s rocket company.اضافة اعلان

The string of successes are, as NASA and SpaceX hoped, making spaceflight seem routine.

At 5:49 am Eastern time Friday, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A smooth countdown proceeded through the early morning, and even ran ahead of schedule at times.

The mission, Crew-2, is carrying two American, one Japanese and one French astronaut to the International Space Station. It is a continuation of a successful effort by the space agency to turn over to the private sector the business of taking people to low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX conducted a demonstration mission with two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, a year ago. The capsule, named Endeavour, with the two men then splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean in August.

Months later, SpaceX conducted what NASA called the first routine operational mission for the Crew Dragon spacecraft with four astronauts onboard. That mission, Crew-1, launched in November, and the astronauts are still aboard the station, scheduled to return to Earth next week.

Friday’s launch was the second operational mission. The Crew-2 astronauts are traveling in the same Endeavour capsule used in the demonstration mission last year.

About four hours ahead of the launch Friday morning, the four astronauts had put on their spacesuits. Masked SpaceX suit technicians in black uniforms attended to the four crewmates, who sat in models of the seats aboard the capsule that will carry them to orbit.

Once the astronauts completed suiting up, they were seen off by Musk and Steve Jurczyk, the acting administrator of NASA.

John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer, said “things were looking good” with the spacecraft and the weather ahead of the launch.

About 3 hours and 15 minutes before liftoff, the four astronauts and other crew sat down in Tesla Model X SUVs with license plates that read “REDUCE,” “RECYCLE” and “REUSE.” Before the cars drove toward the launchpad, they said socially distanced goodbyes to their families.

The four crewmates arrived at the launch site and were soon on board the Crew Dragon capsule with about 2 hours and 30 minutes to go before launch. Shane Kimbrough, the mission commander, and Megan McArthur, the pilot, boarded first, and were followed by Thomas Pesquet, Crew-2’s specialist, and Akihiko Hoshide, the flight’s engineer.

About 45 minutes ahead of the launch, SpaceX began loading propellent into the rocket. The countdown proceeded smoothly, and a camera captured the International Space Station crossing the night sky over the Kennedy Space Center as it orbited the planet.

In the final minutes of the countdown, Kimbrough said a few words ahead of launch.

“Off the Earth, for the Earth, Endeavour is ready to go,” he said, referring to the name of this particular Crew Dragon capsule.

The astronauts then briefly clasped each other’s hands.

After the capsule reached orbit, Kimbrough said, “It’s great to be back in space.”

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