Photo by: Matt Cutshall – NHS
April 22rd, 9:00 AM Edt from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center
Tomorrow, in the early morning a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch. It’s nine Merlin 1D engines will ignite creating more than 1.8 million pounds of lift, causing the vehicle and payload to steadily leave Earth’s surface and head on a journey to orbit and twenty-four hours after lift off, dock at the ISS (International Space Station). This mission is slightly different however with the payload being four astronauts being carried inside the Crew variant of the SpaceX Dragon capsule. These four astronauts are Thomas Pesquet of the ESA (European Space Agency), Megan McArthur, and Shane Kimbrough of NASA , and Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). Kimbrough will serve as Commander of the spacecraft, with McArthur as the pilot. Pesquet and Hoshide are both joining as mission specialists.
Robert “Shane” Kimbrough is a retired Army colonel graduating from the U.S. Military Academy who went on to serve as a flight simulator engineer for NASA on the shuttle simulator aircraft. Originally selected for the astronaut corps in 2004. He first flew on STS-126 back in 2008 and has since spent 189 days in space according to NASA. He also has six spacewalks under his belt and could certainly add another on this mission where he will add six more months to his time in orbit. This mission also makes him the first NASA astronaut to fly on three different vehicles, Russian Soyuz, the Space Shuttle, and now Dragon Capsule.
Megan McArthur has spent twelve days, twenty-one hours, thirty-seven minutes, and nine seconds in space according to NASA and is looking forward to adding six months to her record on the Crew-2 mission. She will be piloting the spacecraft, the same spacecraft that took her husband, Bob Behnken to the ISS back in May of 2020 during the DM-2 mission. McArthur was always interested in flying, but looked down before she looked up. She completed her graduate work in oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography before being selected to be an astronaut in 2000. She only flew one shuttle mission, that of STS-125 which was the final Hubble Telescope servicing mission. During the mission she served as flight engineer and used the shuttle’s robotic arm to help the crew make repairs to the telescope. This makes her the last person to “touch” the Hubble Space Telescope. In more recent times McArthur served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office International Space Station Operations Branch, where she helps crews in training aboard the Space Station.
Thomas Pesquet and engineer and pilot who held the dream of becoming an astronaut since childhood achieved his goal back in 2009. In 2016 he made his first trip to space, launching from Kazakhstan on a Soyuz capsule. Pesquet is the first European astronaut to fly onboard the SpaceX Dragon Crew capsule, but has worked with two of his crew mates previous to this mission. In 2014 he spent nine days living underwater with Hoshide, where they acted aquanauts in an undersea habitat during the NEEMO 18 mission. He later conducted his first space walk in 2017 alongside Kimbrough. During the news briefing he told everyone he had some dishes made by different chefs and catering companies to bring some French food to the ISS. He plans to invite the other astronauts onboard to a good dinner once in awhile.
Akihiko Hoshide was born in Japan, but spent a few years of his childhood in New Jersey, where his dreams of becoming an astronaut rose after his father took him to the Kennedy Space Center. three decades later, in 1999 he became an astronaut and first flew to space on STS-124 in 2008, which delivered the Japanese Kibo module to the Space Station. On his next mission, in 2012 he was onboard the station when the very first Cargo Dragon spacecraft docked to the orbiting lab. On that same mission he became the third ever Japanese astronaut to make a spacewalk. Later this year for Expedition 66 he will become the second ever Japanese astronaut to command the Space Station.
The crew arrived in Florida on April 16th after departing their quarantine at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. Crew-2 will be the second operational crewed mission for SpaceX and the first time any astronauts ride in a previously flown Crew Dragon Spacecraft on top of a flight proven booster. Yes, both the capsule and the rocket have flown to space before. The capsule in the DM-2 mission, and the booster in the Crew-1 mission delivering the astronauts who are still onboard the ISS now. The launch is set for April 23rd at 5:49 AM Est.