SpaceX launches Nasa astronauts to International Space Station

Space agency’s fourth commercial crew mission was delayed by Axiom-1

Jon Kelvey
Wednesday 27 April 2022 09:05
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<p>The Falcon 9 rocket carries Nasa’s Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station on 27 April, launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida</p>

The Falcon 9 rocket carries Nasa’s Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station on 27 April, launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida

After waiting for the private Axiom-1 mission to launch, and then return from space, Nasa’s Crew-4 mission has finally blasted off for the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Nasa astronauts lifted off from launch complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 3.52am EDT — 8.52am BST — on Wednesday. It was broadcast live on Nasa’s Nasa’s website.

Crew-4 was previously scheduled to launch as early as 15 April, but delays in the launch of Axiom-1, the first all-private mission to the ISS, bumped the Crew-4 launch date too. Then foul weather prevented the Axiom-1 crew from returning home until Monday, keeping the Crew-4 astronauts waiting on the ground.

Crew-4 will see mission commander Kjell Lindgren, mission pilot Bob Hines, mission specialist Jessica Watkins, and mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti, of the European Space Agency, spend roughly six months on the ISS.

The four will do work on the space station, take spacewalks, and conduct science experiments for researchers on the ground, according to remarks by Nasa assistant program scientist for the ISS Dr Heidi Parris at a media briefing on Tuesday.

“The crew for the vehicle tomorrow is actually going to launch with some research. One of those investigations is a series of investigations actually looking at the potential to develop an artificial human retina,” she said.

“That type of technology could eventually be used to replace the damaged photoreceptor cells in the eyes, and potentially restore meaningful vision to the millions of people who suffer from retinal degenerative diseases.”

Crew-4 is the fourth mission under Nasa’s Commercial Crew program, where the space agency contracts with private launch providers to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. Crew-3 launched four astronauts to the ISS in November and is slated to return to Earth later in April.

Nasa expects to launch Crew-5 no earlier than September 2022.

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