NASA Assigns Four Astronauts To SpaceX Mission Scheduled For 2021

The crew, all veterans of previous ISS missions, will include Akihiko Hoshide with the Japanese space agency JAXA, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, who two months ago saw her husband Robert Behnken first co-pilot. once manned the flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.

Putting four astronauts on SpaceX’s 2021 spring mission, called Crew-2, will bring the number of people to the ISS to seven, allowing “NASA to effectively double the amount of science that can be done in space “The agency said Tuesday.

Currently, five people are on board the ISS: two Russian cosmonauts and Chris Cassidy, Douglas Hurley and NASA Behnken. The latter two arrived at the space station in May after commanding SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on its historic journey. It was the first time in history that a commercial vehicle had brought humans into orbit and the first manned launch from American ground since the NASA space shuttle retired in 2011.

But that mission is not yet over. Behnken and Hurley are expected to return home from the ISS as soon as this weekend, and their safe return could give the Crew Dragon vehicle official certification as a spaceship worthy of being human. And that will pave the way for a Crew Dragon capsule to launch on its first fully operational mission to the space station, Crew-1, which is scheduled for late September.
NASA astronauts on the historic SpaceX mission aiming to return on August 2

NASA has waited for years to regain the ability to fly its own astronauts to and from the space station. After the Shuttle program ended, the space agency had to rely on Russian Soyuz vehicles to transport NASA crews to the ISS, and the United States has paid Russia up to $ 90 million per seat for those trips.

However, instead of building its own replacement for the space shuttle, NASA asked the private sector to develop spacecraft capable of designing and developing its own vehicles so that the space agency can focus on further exploring the solar system.

In 2014, NASA awarded two fixed-price contracts: $ 4.2 billion for Boeing and $ 2.6 billion for SpaceX, which planned to design a crew-worthy version of the Dragon capsule that had already been flying cargo to and from the Station. International Space.

After both companies struggled with development delays, SpaceX beat Boeing to the launch pad with Hurley and Behnken’s manned test mission earlier this year.

Boeing, which suffered major setbacks during a test in December, plans to repeat an unmanned test mission later this year.

Still, having Crew Dragon in their spacecraft arsenal will give NASA much more control over the staff of the US-administered portion of the ISS, and since SpaceX will be able to sell additional seats aboard their spacecraft. In space, NASA astronauts will one day find themselves sharing a journey with tourists, corporate scientists, and even movie stars.