Following several delays and postponements, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully launched four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday. This would be SpaceX’s fourth crew launch for NASA, even though the company has launched a total of 18 people to space within a space of 18 months. SpaceX’s spaceship Endurance is expected to dock at the ISS at 7:10 pm on Thursday (00:10 GMT Friday).
The four crew members aboard the flight are 51-year-old Germany’s, Matthias Mauer. An engineer with the European Space Agency (ESA), Mauer is the 600th astronaut to go to space according to NASA’s stats. The second astronaut on the flight is 44-year-old mission commander Raja Chari. He is an Air Force colonel who has engaged in combat missions in Iraq and has more than 2,500 hours flying fighter jets.
The third astronaut that will be docking at the ISS anytime soon is 61-year-old Dr. Thomas Marshburn. He joined NASA in 1994 as a flight surgeon after working for many years in emergency medicine. This will be his third trip to the ISS and is the oldest astronaut to work and perform a spacewalk at the ISS. The fourth astronaut is 34-year-old Kayla Barron, a Navy lieutenant commander. She served as a submarine warfare officer and is NASA’s 601st person in space.
The four astronauts will be joining two Russian cosmonauts and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei at the ISS. They will also welcome two batches of tourists in the next few weeks to the ISS. Endurance spacecraft launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the delight of spectators which included top NASA officials such as NASA administrator Bill Nelson and NASA associate administrator Bob Cabana as well as SpaceX manager Sarah Walker.
“We’re seeing the power of American ingenuity right before our eyes,” Nelson tweeted after the rocket took off. “Godspeed, Crew-3 – I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish!”
Cabana, a former astronaut, noted that the launch was superb and that “I think it’s an amazing time for America’s space program; we are definitely at an inflection point.”
SpaceX senior launch engineer Mark Soltys who arrived at the Kennedy Space Center two weeks before the launch noted that there will be an exponential rise of crewed missions to space since “we’re entering the era of commercial spaceflight.” Many people are now paying hefty amounts to visit space on tourism, and space investors such as Richard Branson and even Jeff Bezos had taken short trips to near space.