NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have selected three astronauts to fly to space as part of SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission.
SpaceX launched its Crew-1 mission – the company’s first fully operational manned mission to space – to the International Space Station in November. Now, as SpaceX is getting ready for its Crew-2 mission, which will launch in spring 2021, three astronauts have been announced for the next manned mission to the space station.
Crew-3 includes NASA astronauts Raja Chari (who will serve as the mission commander) and Tom Marshburn (who will serve as the pilot), as well as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer (who will serve as the mission specialist), NASA and ESA announced on Monday (December 14). A fourth crew member is announced later, filling the available seats in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
Crew-3 is scheduled to launch sometime in the fall of 2021 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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This mission will be Chari’s first space flight. A former colonel in the United States Air Force, Chari is an experienced test pilot who has accumulated more than 2500 hours of flight time. Chari is also a member of the Artemis team – a newly announced group of 18 NASA astronauts to train for missions within the agency’s ambition Artemis program.
Marshburn is a physician who served in the Astronaut Corps as a flight surgeon at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and became chief of medical operations for the space station. The Crew-3 flight will be Marshburn’s third trip to the space station and its second long-term mission, following a stint as a crew member on the station in 2009 and its second flight in 2013.
Crew-3 will also be Maurer’s maiden flight to space. The ESA astronaut is from Sankt Wendel in the German state of Saarland. Maurer has worked in engineering and research and trained underwater for 16 days at the space analog facility NEEMO (NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations).
The trio and their fourth crew member will spend six months aboard the space station, overlapping with the Crew-2’s stay aboard the Earth orbiting lab.
While Crew-3 will be SpaceX’s third rotation mission to space, it will be the company’s fourth astronaut launch; before Crew-1SpaceX successfully completed its Demo-2 mission earlier this year. Demo-2 showed that the company’s Crew Dragon vehicle could safely transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. With the success of Demo-2, SpaceX launched Crew-1 on November 14.
These commercial crew missions mean that NASA can once again launch astronauts from the United States instead of Kazakhstan on Russian Soyuz vehicles, as has been required since the agency’s shuttle program ended in 2011.
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