An American astronaut, a Danish, a Japanese and a Russian astronaut are set to blast off overnight Thursday through Friday to the International Space Station, the seventh regular crew rotation mission operated by SpaceX for NASA.
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The launch is scheduled to take place from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:50 a.m. local time on Friday (7:50 a.m. GMT) aboard billionaire Elon Musk’s company, a Falcon 9 rocket. The weather is expected to be 90% favorable, but in case of a hitch, it’s possible to backtrack on Saturday.
The four-passenger rocket-powered Dragon capsule should dock with the International Space Station (ISS) after a flight of about a day. The crew will then remain for approximately six months aboard this flight laboratory, where they will conduct various science experiments.
Dubbed Crew-7, the mission will be led by US astronaut Yasmine Mokbely, 40, who will make his first trip to space.
“What I’m most looking forward to is looking at our planet from above,” the Iranian-born MIT graduate said at a news conference last month. “Everyone I’ve spoken to who has flown by plane said it was a life-changing perspective.”
European Space Agency (ESA) Andreas Mogensen and Japan Space Agency (JAXA) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa have been to the International Space Station before — albeit only for ten days the first time.
It will also be the first flight for Russian Konstantin Borisov, who said he was looking forward to “this adventure” after “very intense training”.
Despite increased diplomatic tensions between Washington and Moscow since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, cooperation between the US and Russian space agencies continues on the International Space Station – one of the few areas of cooperation between the two countries that continues.
The two countries’ rocket passenger exchange program has also been maintained: two more Russian cosmonauts have already flown with SpaceX, as part of the Crew-5 and Crew-6 missions.
American astronauts have also recently flown aboard the Soyuz spacecraft, and the next Russian mission carrying an American is scheduled for September.
This weekend, the Crew-7 crew will join the seven passengers currently aboard the International Space Station, which has been permanently inhabited for more than 20 years.
After a few days of delivery with the Crew-6 crew (two Americans, one Russian and one Emirati), the vehicle will return to Earth aboard another SpaceX capsule.
This is the seventh regular mission to the International Space Station that SpaceX has undertaken on behalf of NASA, not counting a test mission that also carried two astronauts.
NASA also signed a contract with Boeing to develop a second American transport to the International Space Station. But Boeing’s program suffered countless delays, and the first manned test flight was not scheduled until after March 2024.