Crew 2 has landed, crew 3 had a delayed launch
Although our launch date has been set for February, we all are well aware that any plan is a basis for change. This November we experienced this up close: the launch of crew 3, that’s going to be with us at the Station, was scheduled for October 30, 2021 (our seventh week here). But then it got delayed by a day, and then again. That’s the way it is here. The changes are apparently related to the weather and also to the astronauts’ health issues.
NASA decided not to delay the return of crew 2 home even before the arrival of crew 3. Usually a new crew arrives, passes the baton and then the outgoing crew leaves. For us, the on-schedule return of crew 2 is good news. It guarantees that our spacecraft, Endeavor, will be arriving here on time to be maintained and prepared for our launch without any delays.
Five important things to know about the Crew 2 Mission
Crew 2 was launched to the International Space Station (following a few days of weather-related delays), from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, in the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. 12 minutes after launch, the spacecraft separated safely from the rocket. About 24 hours afterwards, the crew reached its destination.
This is the third mission sent to the Space Station by SpaceX, but it’s the first time 2 SpaceX Dragon spacecraft have docked simultaneously at the International Space Station. The crew 2 astronauts joined the four astronauts that were launched by SpaceX in November 2020.
Both the rocket and the spacecraft used for the launch have already operated previously in other missions. The rocket was used in a November 2020 launch, and earlier - in May 2020 - that spacecraft was used to send Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the Station.
Three of the astronauts in the crew are very experienced. Thomas Pesquet of France, aged 43, of the European Space Agency, stayed on board the International Space Station for six months. Akihiko Hoshide, aged 52 of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has been in space twice and has spent 4 months on the Space Station. Mission Crew Commander, Shane Kimbrough, an American from NASA, has been sent twice to space and has spent more than half a year on the Space Station. The mission pilot, Dr. Catherine McArthur, aged 49, also from NASA, is married to Bob Behnken - and sat in the same seat Behnken had sat in, in the very same spacecraft, a few months earlier.
The Crew 2 mission splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean between November 7-8, 2021.
Five important things to know about the Crew 3 Mission
Crew 3 was launched on November 11, 2021 (exactly a decade after my last flight in Squadron 117). We watched the launch from 3 kilometers away. You first see the flare accelerating and separating from the ground, a bright light illuminates the darkness, and after about a minute you hear the thunder roll in and drown out the sound of the waves.
NASA announced that among the four astronauts on board the spacecraft, was the 600th person to reach space in the past 60 years since Russia’s Yuri Gagarin launched into space in 1961.
The four are Kayla Baron (34), Raja Chari (44) and Thomas Marshburn (61) - all three from the American Space Agency, Matthias Maurer (51) of Germany from the European Space Agency. Apart from Marshburn, for whom this is his third mission to space, for the other three this is their first mission. Maurer said that he is the 600th man in space due to the order of the astronauts on the mission. At the moment 601 humans have reached space. (Among them actor William Shatner, who played no other than Captain Kirk on the Star Trek TV series, and billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.
This is the spacecraft’s fourth manned launch that SpaceX is sending to the International Space Station and the
company’s fifth manned flight, after on September 9, 2021 the first private flight was launched - Inspiration4 - with four
crew members on board, all Americans, none of them NASA astronauts. The four civilian space tourists stayed on board Dragon for three days. The craft was fitted with a wide-angle front window, through which they viewed the fabulous route around Earth. We will be SpaceX’s sixth flight.
5. As I said, the space launch had been postponed a few times, and therefore when the Crew 3 astronauts arrived at the
International Space Station, they were greeted only by two Russian astronauts and one American that were waiting for them there. All these together are going to be our companions while we’re at the Station.
For us, during that exciting November week of one launch and one landing, the most powerful experience was the return of Crew 2, that landed safely and returned the spacecraft in which we are going to be launched.
In a few days, SpaceX will know when they’ll be ready, and judging by all the conversations I’ve been having with NASA, they want us to lift off on schedule in order to encourage other entrepreneurs to join the megaproject of manned space flight, which already today is within the private market domain.
And what is NASA doing in the meantime? - You’ll be able to read all about it in a later post. Stay tuned.