Four astronauts, including the 600th person to enter space in 60 years, were sent into orbit Wednesday night by a SpaceX rocket.
The journey, which had been repeatedly postponed, took place just two days after SpaceX returned four other astronauts from the International Space Station. They should have been up there to greet the newcomers, but NASA and SpaceX made the decision to switch the order based on Monday’s favourable recovery weather in the Gulf of Mexico, and they were successful.
Soon after the spacecraft reached orbit, mission commander Raja Chari commented, “It was a terrific journey, better than we hoped.”
Spectators at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and around the East Coast were enthralled as the Falcon rocket thundered through clouds on its journey to space, turning night into day.
According to NASA, Matthias Maurer of Germany claimed the No. 600 spot based on his mission assignment. He and his three NASA crewmates are expected to arrive at the space station in less than 24 hours, despite the fact that they are more than a week late.
Last week, one of the astronauts — NASA won’t identify which one — was forced to return to Earth due to a secret medical concern. According to NASA, the crew member has fully recovered. Officials will not say whether the illness or damage was caused by COVID-19.
Their flight delays were also caused by bad weather. Trying to debut on Halloween, according to Chari, provided them with a lot of problems “a ruse rather than a treat.” It was also raining when the four astronauts said their goodbyes to their families for the next six months on Wednesday night, with everyone huddled under umbrellas, but it cleared up by launch time.
“Enjoy your vacation under the skies.” As you pass over, we’ll be waving “Mark Soltys, the SpaceX launch director, radioed the team.
The 600-strong list includes astronauts from the United States and Russia who have spent a year or more in orbit, as well as individuals who have only scraped the surface of space, such as actor William Shatner last month. This year’s influx of space travellers pushed the total to above 600.
Since Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering trip in 1961, this has averaged out to 10 individuals every year, according to Maurer.
“But I believe that in a few years, we will witness an exponential spike in that one,” he remarked after arriving at Kennedy Space Center two weeks ago.
The crew launch was SpaceX’s fourth for NASA and the company’s fifth passenger trip overall, including a four-person charter voyage that bypassed the space station in September. During their three days in orbit, the toilet in the Dragon capsule leaked, prompting a fast redesign of the flushing system in the newest spacecraft, designated Endurance by its crew.
SpaceX experts scrutinised the data after a faulty parachute during Monday’s descent before approving the launch on Wednesday. Officials said one of the four chutes opened more than a minute late, a fault that was noticed during testing and was well within safety limitations, but is currently being investigated.
Elon Musk’s business has launched 18 people in the last 18 months, as of Wednesday.
“Human spaceflight is why we were formed,” Sarah Walker, a SpaceX manager, stated.
Mauer, a member of the European Space Agency, is one of three newcomers on the crew. When he originally applied to be an astronaut, the 51-year-old was a finalist. Encouraged, he left his research job at a medical firm to join the space agency as an engineer, and in 2015, he was selected as an astronaut.
Chari, 44, is a colonel in the Air Force and the first space rookie in decades to lead a NASA mission into orbit. Chari, a test pilot from Cedar Falls, Iowa, has over 2,500 hours in fighter jets under his belt, including combat missions in Iraq.
On board as well:
— Dr. Thomas Marshburn, 61, will be the oldest person to reside onboard the space station and walk on the moon. He was born in Statesville, North Carolina, and studied emergency medicine before joining NASA as a flight surgeon in 1994. He’ll be visiting the space station for the third time.
— Navy lieutenant commander Kayla Barron, 34, of Richland, Washington She was one of the first female submarine warfare officers. She was added to the voyage in May and is space No. 601.
They will host two groups of tourists throughout their time at the station. A Russian film crew recently spent two weeks filming at the station.
The new crew will be joined on the station by three current residents: two Russians and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei, who turned 55 on Wednesday.
Before the launch, NASA tweeted, “NASA and @SpaceX are lighting a giant candle in the sky for you tonight.”
On an ocean boat, that candle — the first-stage booster — landed upright.