NASA and SpaceX launched an astronaut crew from around the globe on Wednesday to the International Space Station.
The historic mission, which included some firsts, was able to move forward despite rising geopolitical tensions.
At noon, the four crew members, astronauts Nicole Mann (NASA) and Josh Cassada (JAXA), and astronaut Koichi Wakata (JAXA), took off from the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Cosmonaut Anna Kikina, Roscosmos, was also aboard. ET from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
NASA shared footage of their crew onboard their capsule after they reached orbit. They were excited to share their excitement and explain that they had brought along a “freefall indicator” – a small, stuffed doll modeled after Albert Einstein. The toy floated around in the cabin signaling that crew members had reached weightlessness.
Einstein was the first to conceptualize the Theory of Relativity. He had the “happiest thought of all his life” when he realized that “persons in freefall can feel and control their weight,” Cassada explained from the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“We all live in the same universe, in the same world. Sometimes, we see it differently from our neighbors. “We can all remember that… and continue doing amazing things,” Cassada stated, and Kikina was seen pumping her fist while he spoke. “And we can all do it together.”
Crew-5 is the sixth mission of an astronaut flight that NASA and SpaceX jointly launched to reach the space station.
Mann became the first Native American woman to fly to space. This is a significant moment in history. She is also the mission commander, becoming the first woman to hold such a position for a SpaceX mission.
Kikina is also the first Russian woman to take part in a SpaceX mission under a ride-sharing agreement between NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos. This deal was signed in July. This is the latest signal that the decades-old US-Russia space partnership will continue, even with tensions rising over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Crew Dragon is currently on a slow and precise journey to the ISS. It orbits approximately 200 miles (322 km) above Earth’s surface. The spacecraft will dock with the station at 5 p.m. on Thursday. ET.
What is special about this flight?
SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched NASA astronauts aboard the space station aboard. This is not a new concept. SpaceX and NASA worked together for many years to help transition the responsibility of transporting people to the station. SpaceX was established in 2011 after NASA discontinued its Space Shuttle Program.
SpaceX’s return to US soil has allowed for many historic firsts. NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins was the first Black woman to join the ISS crew on the Crew-4 Dragon mission.
Mann, a member of the Wailacki tribe, was the first Native American woman to fly into orbit.
Mann stated that he was proud to represent Native Americans, and his heritage, before
the launch. “I believe it’s important that we celebrate our diversity, and also recognize how important it is to collaborate and unite and the amazing achievements that we can achieve.”
Mann will assume the role of commander and ensure that the spacecraft docks with the ISS on time. Then, it will return home with four Crew-5 astronauts next January. Although there were a few women who served that role during the Space Shuttle Program, it was the first time a woman held the commanding position on a SpaceX mission.
The Roscosmos Cosmonaut Kikina became the first Russian to launch on a SpaceX vessel at a time US-Russian relations were near a fever pitch due to the Ukraine war.
NASA officials have repeatedly stated that Russia and NASA will continue to operate the ISS jointly. Russia is the primary operator. Kikina’s flight follows Dr. Frank Rubio’s launch to the ISS on a Roscosmos Soyuz capsule.
After arriving at the Florida launch site, Kikina said to reporters that she loves her crewmates. “I feel happy and secure. … We will do the job right: we will be satisfied.
Sergei Krikalev (executive director of Human Space Flight Programs at Roscosmos) commented on the importance of the US-Russian partnership during a post-launch press conference.
Krikalev stated that “We just continue with what was started many decades ago, in 1975, when the Apollo-Soyuz team worked together,” referring to the 1975 in-space meeting that became a symbol for post-Cold War cooperation between Russia and the United States. “Now, we continue that.”
Who are the other astronauts aboard?
Mann and Josh Cassada are both NASA astronauts. Both were born in White Bear
Lake in Minnesota. Cassada described Mann as one of his closest friends on the planet.
Cassada, like Mann, will be making their first space trip.
This is Wakata’s fifth spaceflight mission. He has flown previously on the Soyuz and NASA spacecraft.
“I can still recall the first time I flew to see our beautiful planet,” he said during an August press conference. It was so beautiful, it was such a beautiful planet. I felt very fortunate to be able to call this planet my home.
What will they do in space and what are their plans?
The crew will be joining seven other astronauts on the ISS after they reach it. This includes four NASA astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts.
The handover period will see the current ISS crew assist the new astronauts before a Crew Dragon spacecraft arrives to bring the four SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts home.
The Crew-5 astronauts will then begin to perform spacewalks. This is when astronauts leave the ISS to maintain its exterior and conduct more than 200 science experiments.
NASA states that NASA will be conducting experiments to print human organs in space and understand the Moon’s fuel system. It also plans to better understand heart disease.
Crew-5 is expected to return from space within five months.