Collaborative SpaceX-NASA Launch Sends Four Astronauts From Diverse Nations
Collaborative SpaceX-NASA launch sends four astronauts from diverse nations as they set off on a voyage to the International Space Station, marking the commencement of a mission anticipated to span over six months.
Collaborative SpaceX-NASA launch sends four astronauts from diverse nationsas they set off on a voyage to the International Space Station, marking the commencement of a mission anticipated to span over six months. Guided by the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance capsule, the crew embarked on their mission known as Crew-7, representing diverse nations and space agencies worldwide. The spacecraft initiated its journey atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:27 a.m. ET on Saturday.
The quartet of astronauts comprises NASA's Jasmin Moghbeli, who assumes the role of mission commander; European Space Agency representative Andreas Mogensen from Denmark; Satoshi Furukawa from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA); and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov representing Roscosmos.
Following its entry into orbit, the Crew Dragon capsule disengaged from the Falcon 9 rocket, embarking on its independent trajectory in space. Over the course of more than 24 hours, the spacecraft will meticulously navigate its way toward the space station, which orbits approximately 220 nautical miles (420 kilometers) above the Earth's surface.
"Space travel is difficult, but you make it look easy," Moghbeli dispatched to SpaceX mission control from the Crew Dragon capsule after launch.
"We’re a united team with a common mission,” she added. "Go Crew-7. Awesome ride."
The crew is projected to rendezvous with the space station at approximately 8:39 a.m. ET on Sunday. Upon arrival, Moghbeli, Mogensen, Furukawa, and Borisov will integrate with the existing seven astronauts in the orbiting research facility. During their initial days aboard, the Crew-7 members will engage in a transition of responsibilities from the SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts, who have been stationed on the space station since March.
This mission signifies the eighth collaborative endeavor between NASA and SpaceX within the framework of the agency's commercial crew program. Since SpaceX's inaugural crewed mission in 2020, this program has facilitated the transportation of astronauts to the space station. Notably, the Crew-7 team stands as the most culturally diverse crew assembled by SpaceX thus far.
We are extremely proud - and I know I personally am humbled - to be a member of this incredible crew, where if you look at our four patches you’ll see a different nation’s flag on each one. The mission commander was referring to the flag patches adorning the left shoulder of the astronauts’ suits. We hope this represents what we can accomplish when we work together in unity and cooperate together. And we think this really is what the International Space Station is all about.- Jasmin Moghbeli during a news conference in Florida
The crew collaborated to create their official mission patch, featuring an image of a dragon resting atop the Earth.
"We wanted it to represent that everything we do on this mission, we hope ultimately benefits our beautiful home planet and those on it," Moghbeli commented. She further explained that the dragon's tail, adorned with red, white, and blue stripes, is a tribute to the flags of all four nations partaking in the Crew-7 mission.
During their anticipated 190-day residency aboard the space station, the Crew-7 astronauts are set to engage in a comprehensive array of experiments. Among these investigations is an examination of the potential hazard posed by the dispersion of bacteria and fungi originating from human-led space missions. The team's focus will be on assessing whether these microorganisms have the capability to be expelled through the space station's vents and dispersed into the vacuum of space.
One of the projects, overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA), seeks to uncover distinctions in sleeping patterns in the microgravity environment compared to Earth. This will involve studying astronauts' brain waves as they fall asleep. Additionally, a separate experiment will delve into the development of biofilms within wastewater on the space station.
These findings could hold significance for refining water recycling methods for drinking and hygiene during space missions. (Indeed, astronauts have long employed recycled sweat and urine for drinking and bathing aboard the station.)
Born in Bad Nauheim, Germany, close to Frankfurt, Commander Moghbeli's roots trace back to their Iranian heritage. However, she identifies Baldwin, New York, on Long Island, as her cherished hometown.
Following her high school graduation, she pursued aerospace engineering, earning her bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Subsequently, she obtained a master's in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Moghbeli boasts a background in the military domain, having served as a Marine Corps test pilot. Her impressive record includes over 150 combat missions and more than 2,000 hours of flight time.
In 2017, she was chosen to join NASA's esteemed astronaut corps. The Crew-7 mission marks her inaugural expedition into space.
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This is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. One of the things I’m most excited about is looking back at our beautiful planet. Everyone I’ve talked to who has flown already has said that was kind of a life-changing perspective.- Jasmin Moghbeli during a July 25 news conference
Borisov has now become the third cosmonaut from Russia's Roscosmos to journey on a spacecraft of US origin, thanks to a seat-swapping arrangement established between NASA and Roscosmos in 2022.
Historically, the practice of sharing rides to the space station has been a longstanding tradition for both NASA and Roscosmos. In fact, Roscosmos served as the exclusive transportation provider for an extended period after NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011. However, the latest collaborative rideshare agreement assumed particular significance for NASA last year due to escalating tensions between the United States and Russia related to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Despite the geopolitical tensions, NASA has consistently maintained that the cooperation between the two nations in space remains unaffected. Similarly to Moghbeli, Borisov is embarking on his inaugural spaceflight.
"I’m very excited, really. I’m honored to be a part of the international crew," he said Sunday. "Experienced astronauts and cosmonauts, they say that when you go to the ISS and you look at the planet, you see that there are no borders. And really, I want to convey that feeling and that emotion."
At present, the exclusive means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station are SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. However, NASA is actively working to introduce an additional transportation option in the near future. Boeing's Starliner, also a participant in NASA's commercial crew contracting program, is anticipated to commence operational service within the upcoming year, following a series of delays.
Fulfilling the Crew-7 mission pilot role is Mogensen, hailing from Copenhagen. He commenced his academic journey at the Copenhagen International School and proceeded to secure a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom. He expanded his expertise by achieving a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
Before his induction into ESA's astronaut training program in 2009, Mogensen contributed as a research fellow at the Surrey Space Centre in the UK. His research concentrated on the domain of spacecraft navigation and control for lunar landings. This mission constitutes his second venture into space, following his participation in a 10-day Russian Soyuz mission to the space station in 2015.
"It’s hard to describe what an incredible place the International Space Station is," Mogensen said at a Sunday news conference. "I didn’t realize it until shortly before docking on my first mission when I looked out the windows … and I could see the gigantic solar arrays stretching out in space next to me."
"I realized just what a unique and incredible laboratory that we - humanity - has built in low-Earth orbit over the past 20, 25 years."
Furukawa, who stands as the solitary spaceflight veteran among the Crew-7 astronauts, was born in Kanagawa, Japan, just to the south of Tokyo. His academic journey led him to acquire a medical degree and a doctorate in medical science from the University of Tokyo. Subsequently, he practiced as a clinical surgeon.
In 1999, he was selected as an astronaut by JAXA. His debut mission to the space station transpired in 2011, encompassing a 165-day sojourn. This mission took off as part of NASA's final space shuttle endeavor, STS-135.
Furukawa expressed eagerness for his return to the microgravity environment of the space station, anticipating scientific endeavors. These pursuits include research that could contribute to the development of new medical advancements and projects that could offer insights into future lunar exploration possibilities.
Upon reaching the space station, the Crew-7 astronauts will bid adieu to the SpaceX Crew-6 crew members. The latter will embark on their journey back to Earth via their spacecraft, the Crew Dragon Endeavour, in the approaching days.
In the middle of September, the space station's crew will extend a welcome to NASA astronaut Loral O'Hara, accompanied by cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, who will launch aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-24 capsule.