SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts were ‘hooting and giggling’ as they rocketed into orbit

crew 2 astronauts spacex nasa
The Crew-2 astronauts pose during a training session at the SpaceX training facility in Hawthorne, California.

Spaceflight is serious business: Getting people from Earth into orbit safely requires precise planning and execution. But that doesn’t mean astronauts can’t have a little fun while they’re launching into space.

As part of its latest Crew-2 mission, SpaceX rocketed four astronauts toward the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spaceship Friday morning. The successful launch inspired some joyful noise from the Crew-2 astronauts.

“The ride was really smooth. We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” NASA astronaut and pilot Megan McArthur said during a live video tour of Crew Dragon in orbit. “There may have been some hooting and giggling up here while all that was going on.”

crew-2 liftoff falcon 9 spacex nasa
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with the Crew-2 mission on April 23, 2021.

Using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon blasted off NASA’s Kennedy Space Center launchpad in Florida at 5:49 a.m. ET as the sun rose. Just 12 minutes later, the spaceship fully separated from the rocket and slipped into orbit.

“We chased the sun pretty quickly and caught up with it just a few minutes after we took off,” NASA astronaut and mission commander Shane Kimbrough said. “That was pretty special to see the sunlight coming in.”

A tight-knit crew of seasoned astronauts

This isn’t McArthur and Kimbrough’s first space voyage. The two NASA astronauts – and their crewmates Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency – have rocketed into orbit before.

“It’s great to be back in space again after a few years for me,” McArthur said. The last time she was in space was more than a decade ago, when she helped upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

“I’m like a baby bird here, relearning how to move around in microgravity and it feels really good but it feels a little bit weird too,” McArthur said.

Crew-2 marks Kimbrough’s and Hoshide’s third space mission, and Pesquet’s second. All together, the four of them have logged more than 500 days in space.

crew 2 astronauts crew dragon spaceship
The Crew-2 astronauts during a training session in Hawthorne, California. Left to right: Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Akihiko Hoshide.

The four-person crew spent almost a year training for the mission: a shorter training timeline than previous crewed SpaceX missions.

“It’s a little less than a year of training, where the crews in front of us had several years of training,” Kimbrough said during an April 17 press conference.

The crew spent time relaxing together on a beach near the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

At 1:30 a.m. ET Friday, the astronauts suited up in their SpaceX spacesuits. Then they said goodbye to their families, drove to the launchpad, ascended the launch tower, and climbed aboard the spaceship. After more than four hours of pre-flight checks and preparation, they took off.

Traveling on a recycled spaceship

crew-2 falcon 9 rocket crew dragon spacex
The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon are rolled out to the launchpad on April 16, 2021.

This was the first SpaceX mission to launch astronauts on a reused spaceship.

Crew Dragon became the first – and, so far, the only – commercial vehicle to carry humans into space last May, when NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken took it on a two-month test flight to the ISS. That mission, called Demo-2, was the first time a US spacecraft had launched people from US soil since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

The Falcon 9 rocket booster was also recycled – another first for SpaceX’s crewed flights. It’s the same booster that launched the preceding SpaceX mission, Crew-1, in November. Reusing ships and boosters enables more efficient and lower-cost travel beyond Earth.

Despite being used again, both Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 performed beautifully.

“The ride up was fantastic,” Pesquet said during the live tour of the ship.

crew dragon resilience crew-1 docking international space station spacex nasa
The Resilience capsule docks to the International Space Station on November 16, 2020.

“As you can see it’s pretty roomy,” he said, adding: “The inside is very comfy and we feel very well protected.”

SpaceX and NASA expect the Crew Dragon to rendezvous with the ISS around 5:10 a.m. ET on Saturday, joining seven other astronauts already up there.

NASA has contracted four more SpaceX flights like this one. Crew Dragon is poised to carry the first civilian spaceflight in history, called Inspiration-4, in September.

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Watch live: SpaceX is launching 4 astronauts aboard a recycled Crew Dragon spaceship for NASA on Friday

crew 2 astronauts spacex nasa
The Crew-2 astronauts pose during a training session at the SpaceX training facility in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX is rocketing four astronauts toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday morning.

The company’s Crew Dragon spaceship is the first and only commercial vehicle to carry people into space. It’s now a cornerstone of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

Friday’s mission, called Crew-2, is the second routine astronaut flight that SpaceX is conducting for NASA. The agency has contracted six Crew Dragon missions in total. The first one, Crew-1, is still on the ISS. Those astronauts will be welcoming the four newcomers: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency.

SpaceX NASA
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39-A at Kennedy Space Center.

“We want this to become a regular way to get to the space station, which means, I don’t know, down the line hundreds of launches maybe,” Pesquet said during a March news conference.

The astronauts have ascended a launch tower to the top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and climbed aboard the Crew Dragon capsule that’s secured to the top. They’re set to roar into space at 5:49 a.m. ET on Friday.

“We’re ready and we’re excited to fly,” McArthur said in the news conference.

Watch the historic spaceflight on NASA’s livestream below.

Watch SpaceX’s recycled Crew Dragon Endeavour fly to space again

NASA TV has live coverage of the preparations, launch countdown, and liftoff:

NASA’s live coverage of the Crew-2 launch began at 1:30 a.m. ET on Friday, as the astronauts got suited up in their SpaceX spacesuits. After that, the astronauts said goodbye to their families, drove to the launchpad in a pair of custom Teslas, ascended the launch tower, and climbed aboard Crew Dragon.

With the astronauts strapped in and the spaceship’s hatch sealed shut, the rocket will be loaded with cryogenically chilled propellant in the 35 minutes before liftoff. If all goes well, it should roar past the launchpad, toward space at 5:49 a.m. ET.

This particular Crew Dragon capsule, named Endeavour, is the same one that flew the first commercial spaceflight last year, carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS in a demonstration mission. The capsule has since been refurbished and upgraded.

McArthur will pilot the spaceship, just as Behnken (her husband) did last summer.

crew dragon spaceship orbit earth crew 1 docking international space station
The Resilience capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking, November 16, 2020.

“I’m going to launch in the same seat. So that is kind of a fun thing that we can share, you know, I can tease him and say, ‘Hey, Can you hand over the keys? I’m ready now to go,'” McArthur recently said in a press call.

The Falcon 9 booster, which is also reusable, is the same one that launched Crew-1 in November.

Friday’s launch was originally set for Thursday morning, but NASA rescheduled because of an unfavorable weather forecast. If weather prevents the flight again on Friday, the agency may have its next launch opportunity on Monday.

After launch, Crew Dragon must orbit Earth and dock to the ISS

crew dragon resilience crew-1 docking international space station spacex nasa
The Resilience capsule docks to the International Space Station on November 16, 2020.

Once the Crew Dragon slips into orbit, it will stay there for nearly 24 hours. The astronauts will likely change out of their spacesuits, eat, get a full night’s sleep, have breakfast, organize their belongings, and, eventually, put their spacesuits back on to prepare for arrival at the ISS.

SpaceX and NASA expect the Crew Dragon to perform a series of automated maneuvers to dock to the ISS around 5:10 a.m. on Saturday. The astronauts have to be suited up in case something goes wrong and the Crew Dragon has to prematurely return to Earth. NASA TV will broadcast the docking operation as well.

crew 2 astronauts crew dragon spaceship
The Crew-2 astronauts during a training session in Hawthorne, California. Left to right: Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Akihiko Hoshide.

The ISS will be crowded with 11 people for at least four days while Crew-1 is still on board. Those astronauts – Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi – will climb back into their own Crew Dragon capsule as early as April 28.

Their capsule, called Resilience, will then undock from the ISS, push itself toward Earth, and plummet through the atmosphere. Parachutes should release, allowing the spaceship to drift to a splashdown off the coast of Florida.

The Crew-2 astronauts will return in a similar fashion in about six months.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch SpaceX launch 4 astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Friday

crew 2 astronauts spacex nasa
The Crew-2 astronauts pose during a training session at the SpaceX training facility in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX is rocketing four astronauts toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday morning.

The company’s Crew Dragon spaceship is the first and only commercial vehicle to carry people into space. It’s now a cornerstone of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

Friday’s mission, called Crew-2, is the second routine astronaut flight that SpaceX is conducting for NASA. The agency has contracted six Crew Dragon missions in total. The first one, Crew-1, is still on the ISS. Those astronauts will be welcoming the four newcomers: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency.

SpaceX NASA
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39-A at Kennedy Space Center.

“We want this to become a regular way to get to the space station, which means, I don’t know, down the line hundreds of launches maybe,” Pesquet said during a March news conference.

The astronauts are set to ascend a launch tower to the top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, climb aboard the Crew Dragon capsule that’s secured to the top, then roar into space at 5:49 a.m. ET on Friday.

“We’re ready and we’re excited to fly,” McArthur said in the news conference.

Watch the historic spaceflight on NASA’s livestream below.

Watch SpaceX’s recycled Crew Dragon Endeavour fly to space again

crew dragon spaceship orbit earth crew 1 docking international space station
The Resilience capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking on November 16, 2020.

NASA will begin live coverage of the Crew-2 launch at 1:30 a.m. ET on Friday, as the astronauts get suited up in their SpaceX spacesuits. After that, the astronauts will say goodbye to their families, drive to the launchpad in a pair of custom Teslas, ascend the launch tower, and climb aboard Crew Dragon.

With the astronauts strapped in and the spaceship’s hatch sealed shut, the rocket will be loaded with cryogenically chilled propellant. If all goes well, it should roar past the launchpad, toward space at 5:49 a.m. ET.

NASA TV has live coverage of the preparations, launch countdown, and liftoff:

This particular Crew Dragon capsule, named Endeavour, is the same one that flew the first commercial spaceflight last year, carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS in a demonstration mission. The capsule has since been refurbished and upgraded.

McArthur will pilot the spaceship, just as Behnken (her husband) did last summer.

“I’m going to launch in the same seat. So that is kind of a fun thing that we can share, you know, I can tease him and say, ‘Hey, Can you hand over the keys? I’m ready now to go,'” McArthur recently said in a press call.

The Falcon 9 booster, which is also reusable, is the same one that launched Crew-1 in November.

Friday’s launch was originally set for Thursday morning, but NASA rescheduled because of an unfavorable weather forecast. If weather prevents the flight again on Friday, the agency may have its next launch opportunity on Monday.

After launch, Crew Dragon must orbit Earth and dock to the ISS

crew dragon resilience crew-1 docking international space station spacex nasa
The Resilience capsule docks to the International Space Station on November 16, 2020.

Once the Crew Dragon slips into orbit, it will stay there for nearly 24 hours. The astronauts will likely change out of their spacesuits, eat, get a full night’s sleep, have breakfast, organize their belongings, and, eventually, put their spacesuits back on to prepare for arrival at the ISS.

SpaceX and NASA expect the Crew Dragon to perform a series of automated maneuvers to dock to the ISS around 5:10 a.m. on Saturday. The astronauts have to be suited up in case something goes wrong and the Crew Dragon has to prematurely return to Earth. NASA TV will broadcast the docking operation as well.

crew 1 astronauts crew dragon spaceship
The Crew-2 astronauts during a training session in Hawthorne, California. Left to right: Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Akihiko Hoshide.

The ISS will be crowded with 11 people for at least four days while Crew-1 is still on board. Those astronauts – Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi – will climb back into their own Crew Dragon capsule as early as April 28.

Their capsule, called Resilience, will then undock from the ISS, push itself toward Earth, and plummet through the atmosphere. Parachutes should release, allowing the spaceship to drift to a splashdown off the coast of Florida.

The Crew-2 astronauts will return in a similar fashion in about six months.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A SpaceX astronaut family: Megan McArthur is about to pilot the spaceship her husband, Bob Behnken, flew last year

megan mcarthur bob behnken nasa astronauts 2012 rnasa spaceflight achievement awards ceremony nasa
Married NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Bob Behnken present a spaceflight achievement award during a 2012 ceremony.

Last spring, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Megan McArthur took their son to see SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch cargo to the International Space Station. They wanted him to feel the rumble of the rocket’s engines, hear its roar, and follow it out of view – before either of them were on board.

“He could watch a big rocket launch with both mom and dad there, and we could talk to him about it,” McArthur recently told reporters in a call.

Soon thereafter, Theo, who was 6 years old at the time, waved goodbye to his dad, and Behnken climbed into SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship to pilot the world’s first crewed commercial spacecraft. That demonstration mission carried Behnken and his crewmate, astronaut Doug Hurley, to the ISS in May, where they stayed for nine weeks.

Now, McArthur is preparing to pilot that same spaceship on a mission called Crew-2 – SpaceX’s second routine astronaut flight – which is set to launch on Thursday. It’s literally the same capsule, refurbished. Behnken and Hurley named it Endeavour, after the last Space Shuttle.

Getting assigned to the Endeavour was “a neat surprise, and kind of a fun twist on the whole thing,” McArthur said. “I’m going to launch in the same seat. So that is kind of a fun thing that we can share, you know, I can tease him and say, ‘Hey, Can you hand over the keys? I’m ready now to go.'”

McArthur’s been to space once before, to help repair the Hubble Space Telescope, but has never set foot on the space station. She said she’s “super excited” for the mission.

spacex demo 2 launch
The Falcon 9 rocket launches with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 30, 2020.

Still, for Theo, who turns 7 this month, it’s not easy having astronaut parents.

“At first he was trepidatious about it, and said, ‘Hey I don’t want you to launch on a rocket,'” Behnken recently told People. “But after he saw one, he was good with me going and then mommy going, with the stipulation that he gets to go after mom. I don’t know if we can make that happen for him, but that’s his plan at least.”

In the shorter term, being apart is the biggest challenge, McArthur said.

“Like any child facing a parent being gone for six months, he’s not super excited about it,” she said.

When your spouse is 250 miles above Earth

When it came time for Behnken to say goodbye before his launch, NASA TV microphones picked him up telling Theo: “Be good for mom. Make her life easy.”

spacex astronauts crew dragon families
Hurley (left) and Behnken (right) say goodbye to their families and give distant “hugs,” May 27, 2020.

But watching your spouse rocket to orbit isn’t easy, according to McArthur.

“One of the hardest things to do is watch the person that you love launch into space,” she told The Washington Post before the liftoff. “It’s much harder than actually doing it yourself when you’re in the rocket. You have the training. You’re prepared for the mission. When you’re watching, you’re just a spectator. And no matter what happens, there’s nothing you can do to contribute to the situation.”

To make matters more difficult, it wasn’t yet clear at the time how long Behnken and Hurley would stay on the space station. They had up to three months in orbit, but they could have left earlier. It depended on NASA’s schedule, and on how well the Crew Dragon’s solar panels held up in space.

megan mcarthur bob behnken nasa spacex portraits
McArthur’s (left) and Behnken’s (right) SpaceX astronaut portraits.

“Probably one of the bigger challenges was, well, when is dad coming home?” McArthur said.

While Behnken was in space, McArthur and Theo could often turn on NASA TV and see him floating around on the ISS. They called him every day from their Houston home, which meant coordinating across time zones. Behnken often wanted to talk before he went to bed, which was when the school day was ending.

“I’ve just got home, I’m putting down the bags, I got to make dinner,” McArthur said. “So finding that right time where you can really engage with one another and connect is part of the challenge.”

They also tried to video chat, but learned that Theo couldn’t stay engaged for an entire hour of that. So for McArthur’s mission, she said, they’ll keep the video visits to 15 or 20 minutes.

spacex crew dragon dinosaur toy plushie demo 2 bob behnken
Bob Behnken introduces “Tremor,” the sequined dinosaur plushie that traveled into space aboard the Crew Dragon, May 30, 2020.

McArthur began to train for her own mission while Behnken was still in space. She relied heavily on a babysitter. Then finally, her husband splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico three months after he left the planet. That’s when McArthur really had to start traveling for her own training.

“We gave him about two weeks to get his land legs back, and then I was off,” she said of her husband.

By then, the family was well-acquainted with the training rhythm. Behnken had been involved in the Commercial Crew Program – through which NASA funded the development of SpaceX’s astronaut-launch system – for five years before his mission. The final couple years of that involved intensive training, and he spent several days each week in California.

Then for the last eight months, it’s been mom’s turn to follow a similar schedule. Her time on the ISS will be even longer than Behnken’s.

“Megan being gone for six months will be kind of a unique experience for me. We haven’t been apart for that long a period of a time,” Behnken told People.

The moon may not be in the cards for Behnken or McArthur

starship moon human landing system
An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship lander that will carry NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface during the Artemis mission.

Behnken and McArthur met at NASA in 2000, when they were both training in that year’s astronaut class. They married eight years later, just before McArthur took her first trip to space.

“I figured it was a pretty good screening program, so you got a full background check,” McArthur told People.

Now, the astronaut couple is paving the way for a new era of human space exploration. Commercial astronaut launches to the space station will likely become common. Both NASA and SpaceX want to return astronauts to the moon and, eventually, send humans to Mars.

“I would love to go to the moon or Mars,” McArthur told Insider. But she added, “I think probably this mission will be my last mission. You know, our family has been through a development program already. And I think that the right thing for our family is for me to complete this mission and move on.”

Another member of the family may take up the mantle eventually, though.

“My son has said that he’s going to go to the moon,” McArthur said. “I’ve asked him, you know, would you mind bringing mom with you? And he said sure.”

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