When Elon Musk is not working on Tesla, he is working on his other project SPACE X. Early Friday morning, SPACE X launched four astronauts into orbit to the space station. The spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral at 5:49 am EST.
The spacecraft, named Endeavour, will dock at the forward port of the station’s Harmony module about 5:10 a.m. Saturday, April 24.
“I’m really proud of the SpaceX team and honored to be partnered with NASA and helping JAXA and ESA as well,” said Elon Musk, Chief Engineer at SpaceX.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of advancing human spaceflight and looking forward to going beyond Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars and helping make humanity a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species one day.”
Space X will command the spacecraft from mission control center in Hawthorne, California. NASA will monitor the space station operations from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft consists of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Their science mission is expected to last six months on the space station.
Space X launch from YouTube
Background of the astronauts
The flight’s commander, Shane Kimbrough, 53, is a retired Army colonel who led a helicopter platoon during the 1991 Gulf War. He taught math at the U.S. Military Academy and jumped out of planes for the Army, before moving to Houston in 2000 to work with NASA’s shuttle training aircraft. Kimbrough became an astronaut in 2004, flying on the shuttle in 2008 and launching eight years later in a Russian capsule to the space station he helped build.
— The pilot, Megan McArthur, 49, is flying in the same seat as husband Bob Behnken did during SpaceX's debut crew launch nearly a year ago. She’s eager to see the space station, after two decades as an astronaut. McArthur became an astronaut in 2000.
— Thomas Pesquet, 43, was chosen by the European Space Agency as an astronaut about 12 years ago and flying for Air France. In 2016, Pesquet launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket to the space station for a six-month mission. Pesquet joined the French Space Agency as an engineer in 2002 and joined the flight training program two years later. He logged 2,300 flight hours on commercial airliners before becoming an astronaut in 2009.
— Akihiko Hoshide, 52, was chosen as an astronaut seven years ago for the Japanese Space Agency. Hoshide helped develop Japan’s Kibo lab for the space station. He joined the space agency right out of college in 1992 as an engineer and worked on the H-II rocket. Hoshide will join Japan’s Soichi Noguchi at the station before Noguchi departs next week on his own SpaceX ride.
There are several firsts for this space mission.
- The first commercial crew mission to fly two international partners.
- This is the first commercial crew handover between astronauts on the space station as Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronauts will spend about five days together on the station before Crew-1 returns to Earth
- This is the first reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission
- This is the first time two commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to station at the same time.
Training in Florida
About a month before the launch, the astronauts moved from California to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here, the astronauts will go through a few dry run rehearsals on the launch and the splashdown in the ocean.
The astronauts will also go through specific training for their science experiments. The crew will also get instruction on social media stunts and publicity activities.