New Delhi (NVI): SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.
The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX.
On board were NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan’s Soichi Noguchi. All have flown before except Glover, who will be the first African-American to take part in a long-duration mission on the ISS.
The Dragon capsule on top — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably Covid-19 — is due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring.
Sidelined by the virus himself, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk was forced to monitor the action from afar.
The flight to the space station — 27 1/2 hours door to door — was entirely automated, although the crew could take control if needed.
“Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on today’s launch,” U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden said on Twitter.
Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on today's launch. It’s a testament to the power of science and what we can accomplish by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity, and determination. I join all Americans and the people of Japan in wishing the astronauts Godspeed on their journey.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 16, 2020
Crew-1 is the first of six scheduled operational missions for NASA designed to take four astronauts at a time on long-duration stays to the space station.
Once the four astronauts on Crew-1 arrive at the ISS they will remain on board for about 180 days, performing experiments and research before returning to Earth in June 2021.
They will join a crew of three already onboard – NASA’s Kate Rubins and Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov – raising the crew to seven and tripling the amount of science possible.