Four veteran astronauts will launch to the International Space Station on Thursday (April 22) for SpaceX's Crew-2 mission, the second operational commercial crew flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The mission is set to blast off on April 22 from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT). And, if all goes as planned, Crew Dragon will dock with the orbital outpost less than 24 hours later.
Strapped inside the Crew Dragon capsule will be NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency.
Megan McArthur (NASA)
Throughout her astronaut career, McArthur has spent 12 days, 21 hours, 37 minutes and 9 seconds in space, according to NASA. She will add another 6 months to that total by the end of the Crew-2 mission. For Crew-2, McArthur will pilot the same spacecraft that her husband and fellow astronaut, Bob Behnken, flew on Demo-2, a test mission to the space station in May 2020.
Growing up in a military family, McArthur has always been interested in flying. But instead of looking up, she chose to look down, completing her graduate work in oceanography and working at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Selected as an astronaut in 2000, McArthur has flown on one space shuttle mission — STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. During that flight, McArthur served as a flight engineer, grappling the telescope with the shuttle's robotic arm so that the crew could perform repairs while it was tucked inside the payload bay. As such, she was the last person to "touch" Hubble.
McArthur also served as the astronaut lead for the first commercial cargo missions to visit the space station and additionally, she worked as a crew support astronaut for Expedition Crews during their stays on station. Most recently, she was Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office International Space Station Operations Branch, where she helps crews in training aboard the space station.
Shane Kimbrough (NASA)
Kimbrough, a retired Army colonel, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, or West Point, and was selected as an astronaut in 2004. His first mission was STS-126 in 2008, but even before he joined the astronaut corps, he worked for NASA as a Flight Simulation Engineer (FSE) on the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA).
To date, he has logged 189 days in space, according to NASA, and completed 6 spacewalks, and could add to that during his upcoming six-month stay on station. He will be the commander of the Crew-2 mission and will be the first NASA astronaut to fly on three different vehicles — Russian Soyuz, a space shuttle and now the SpaceX Crew Dragon.
However, he certainly won't be the last, and he joins JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who in November 2020 became the first astronaut to fly on the trio of different spacecraft. "The Dragon is incredibly futuristic," Kimbrough said during a pre-launch briefing. "It's such a change from the Russian Soyuz and the space shuttle."
In 2019, Kimbrough helped to spruce up the crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center in advance of the Demo-2 mission. Little did he know at the time that he'd be staying there for his own mission.
Akihiko Hoshide (JAXA)
Selected as an astronaut in 1999, Hoshide first flew to space as part of the STS-124 mission in 2008, which delivered the Japanese Kibo module to the space station. On his next flight in July 2012, Hoshide was living on the station when the very first cargo Dragon spacecraft berthed to the orbiting lab.
That same mission, he became the third Japanese astronaut to walk in space and later this year, as part of Expedition 66, he will become the second Japanese astronaut to ever command the space station. (The first was Koichi Wakata during Expedition 39 in 2014.)
Hoshide was born in Japan, but spent a few years in New Jersey as a child where his dreams to be an astronaut were born. His father took him to Kennedy Space Center, and nearly three decades later he would be launching from that very place on a space shuttle.
Following his last flight in 2014, Hoshide returned to Florida and met his future crewmate Thomas Pesquet as part of an underwater research mission NEEMO 18.
Thomas Pesquet (ESA)
Pesquet was selected as an astronaut in 2009, with his first spaceflight blasting off from Kazakhstan in 2016. Prior to his first trip to space, he spent nine days living underwater with his Dragon crewmate Hoshide in 2014, living as aquanauts in an underwater habitat during the NEEMO 18 mission.
Pesquet is an engineer and a pilot, which helped him to achieve his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. On his second stay at the space station, Pesquet said during a prelaunch briefing on March 1, that he is looking forward to sharing more French food with his crewmates and staring at the Earth.
“I had some dishes made by different chefs and catering companies that I’m going to take with me,” Pesquet said during the news briefing. “I hope to invite everyone for a good dinner once in a while.”
He is the first European astronaut to fly on the SpaceX Dragon and is looking forward to the chance to do more spacewalks. He conducted his very first spacewalk in 2017 with fellow Dragon crewmate Shane Kimbrough.
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