SpaceX launches a new crew to the ISS for NASA

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SpaceX transports four astronauts to the International Space Station.

Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY/AP PHOTO/PICTURE ALLIANCE/Deutsche Welle

Less than two days after a SpaceX Dragon capsule manned by wealthy adventurers splashed down off the coast of Florida, another mission took off this Wednesday (04.27.2022), this time for a NASA mission to the International Space Station (ISS). , or ISS, in English).

The crew, which will take about 16 hours to reach the space laboratory, is made up of Kjell Lindgren (commander), Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, from the US space agency NASA, and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, from the European Space Agency (ESA). ).

The night launch (3:53 local time) was made from platform 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Crew 4 (Crew-4) will join the Crew 3 quartet, which is nearing the end of its five-month rotation on the ISS, as well as three Russians on the Russian segment of the orbital outpost. In the docking maneuver to the space station, the astronauts of Crew 4 will receive the help of the members of Crew 3, which arrived at the space laboratory on November 11, and that in the next few days will undertake a return trip to Earth. .

More than 200 scientific and technical experiments

The Crew 4 astronauts, traveling with two small stuffed animals, a turtle and a monkey, will spend about six months on the space station. They will conduct research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science, with the goal of preparing for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefiting life on Earth.

They will carry out more than 200 scientific and technical experiments, including ongoing research on growing plants without soil in space, as well as up to two spacewalks to replace the solar panels of the veteran orbital station.

Another Expedition 67 space station experiment will involve developing an artificial human retina, taking advantage of the ISS’s microgravity environment to help lay down thin protein films, layer after layer. This technology “could eventually be used to replace damaged photoreceptor cells in the eyes and potentially restore meaningful vision to the millions of people who suffer from degenerative retinal diseases,” said NASA scientist Heidi Parris.

When Dragon Freedom arrives at the space station, it will be attached to the Harmony module, which until this Saturday was occupied by the Dragon Endeavour, in which the first private mission to reach that destination, the Ax-1, traveled to this laboratory, organized by the Axiom Space company of Texas.

SpaceX, NASA’s main astronaut taxi

Crew 4 is one of the astronaut transport missions to the space station carried out by the private company SpaceX for NASA since 2020, when the first flight from United States territory to the ISS was made since the end of the space shuttle program. in 2011.

SpaceX’s rapid turnaround time — just under 40 hours between recovering one crew and sending another — is a sign of an increasingly crowded manned spaceflight schedule since tycoon Elon Musk’s company became NASA’s premier astronaut taxi in 2020.

Between 2011 and 2020, NASA relied on Russian Soyuz rockets for that service. “Think about how the Cape has been transformed, think about all those abandoned launch pads on the Cape and how they’re coming back to life,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters on Tuesday.

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