- The success of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission prepares the company and NASA for their next crew.
- That mission, called Crew-1, will ferry four astronauts to the space station and back: Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi.
- The team is expected to start at the end of September.
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When NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley landed in the Gulf of Mexico after a burning fall through the Earth’s atmosphere, people around the world breathed a sigh of relief – including a group of four fellow astronauts in Houston.
The success of the ascent, a high-performance test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, showed that NASA was able to successfully partner with the company to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The four astronauts who watched in Houston are the crew on SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, the next round trip to the ISS. NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), astronaut Soichi Noguchi, are expected to launch in September.
“It was a very emotional event for all of us – to be able to see our colleagues, our friends, come home safely,” Walker said at a post-landing press conference. He added, “we are very pleased that it went as smoothly as it did, because it really points to how our mission will be when we get a chance to launch.”
NASA and SpaceX plan to launch at least six missions to the ISS (with the exception of the latest demonstration) using SpaceX rockets and the Crew Dragon capsule. The partnership frees NASA from relying on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which has recently cost up to $ 90 million per space. NASA has not been able to launch astronauts into US systems since 2011, when it stopped the space shuttle. A seat on a SpaceX shuttle is estimated to cost $ 55 million (not counting the funding NASA gave the company to develop Crew Dragon in the first place).
The success of the latest mission started “a new era in spaceflight”, said SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Sunday.
Meet the astronauts from Crew-1
The Crew-1 astronauts plan to stay on the ISS for a standard six months, during which they will make space missions, do scientific experiments and work with regular station maintenance. Like other crews, they will bring a variety of different knowledge and backgrounds to their work.
Head of Mission Hopkins grew up on a farm in Missouri and was a special assistant to the Vice President of the Chiefs of Staff before becoming an astronaut in 2009. He served as an Air Force Colonel in the Air Force. He spent 166 days on the space station in 2013.
Walker, a mission specialist, was born in Houston, Texas and hired by NASA in 1995. She worked on robotic hardware and other initiatives before being selected as an astronaut in 2004. She spent 161 days on the ISS in 2010.
Glover, the crew’s pilot, was selected as part of NASA’s 21st astronaut class in 2013, while serving as a lawmaker in the U.S. Senate. He is a former naval commander, pilot and test pilot, with over 3,000 hours of flying experience – but this will be his first space flight.
Noguchi, who will also serve as a mission specialist, is an aeronautical engineer from Japan. He was a former boy forwarder and was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and has spent 177 days in space.
If the Crew-1 mission goes as planned, Noguchi will have flown on three different spaceships: He has also flown on Russia’s Soyuz and the American space shuttle. A JAXA astronaut, Noguchi, the only non-NASA member of Crew-1. Part of the motivation for the NASA-SpaceX partnership was to enable other countries’ space agencies to also buy seats and further loosen Russia’s monopoly on spaceflight.
“We have a great variety or diversity in this crew. And my small contribution to this amazing team is experience,” Noguchi told reporters during a conference after the splashdown on Sunday.
After Crew-1, SpaceX’s subsequent Crew-2 mission is scheduled to depart in the spring. That crew is scheduled to fly the same Crew Dragon capsule that Behnken and Hurley used. Crew-2 will also involve four astronauts: NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
McArthur, who will pilot the ship, is also Behken’s wife.
Video: Astronauts return to Earth safely when NASA makes first splashdown in 45 years using SpaceX (FOX News)