SpaceX dispatches Crew-4 mission for NASA, has now sent 26 space voyagers to space in under two years
- SpaceX sent off a gathering of space explorers for NASA early Wednesday morning.
- The Crew Dragon capsule Freedom is on its way to the International Space Station, carrying NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
- In much less than two years, Elon Musk's firm has launched 26 people into orbit.
On Wednesday, less than two days after completing a journey chartered by millionaires, SpaceX sent four people to the International Space Station for NASA.
The Crew-4 mission, which was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:52 a.m. ET, was the company's seventh human spaceflight to date and the agency's fourth operational crew launch. The four men were launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the company's Crew Dragon spaceship called Freedom.
It's the first NASA crew with an equal number of men and women, including Jessica Watkins, the first Black woman to fly in space for an extended period of time.
She attributes "ultimately being able to achieve my ambition" to supportive family and mentors, notably Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space in 1992.
Bob Hines, a NASA astronaut and test pilot, is making his first spaceflight, just like Watkins. Samantha Cristoforetti, a former Italian Air Force fighter pilot, and Lindgren, a medic, are making their second trip to the International Space Station
The Crew-4 crew will spend around six months on the ISS during a full-duration mission. The four will briefly join the Crew-3 astronauts, who launched in November, before the Crew Dragon capsule Endurance undocks and returns to Earth.
"We owe a deep thanks to each and every one of you who helped make this happen. "Let Falcon roar and Freedom ring," NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, the commander, said over the radio. Their refurbished booster landed on an ocean platform minutes later, and their capsule was securely orbiting the Earth. He said, "It was a fantastic ride."
NASA's Commercial Crew Program provided SpaceX with more than $3 billion to construct its Crew Dragon spacecraft and fine-tune its Falcon 9 rocket, allowing the company to perform six operational missions.
Commercial Crew is a competitive program. Boeing was also given $4.8 billion in contracts by NASA to create its Starliner spaceship, although the capsule is still in development due to a challenging uncrewed flight test in December 2019.
After software and other issues derailed a 2019 test mission and prevented a retake last summer, the firm will try again next month to transport an empty crew capsule to the space station.
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