CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's next astronaut crew is set to launch to the International Space Station on Sunday (Oct. 31), marking the third operational crewed flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The mission, called Crew-3, is slated to lift off before dawn on Oct. 31 from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center here in Florida at 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT). And, if all goes as planned, the Crew Dragon Endurance will dock with the orbital outpost less than 24-hours later.
Live updates: Follow SpaceX's Crew-3 astronaut launch for NASA
Strapped inside the gumdrop-shaped SpaceX capsule will be NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, along with German astronaut Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency (ESA).
Before you tune into the live launch coverage on Space.com and NASA TV, let's get to know the latest group of space flyers launching aboard SpaceX's newest Dragon crew capsule.
NASA astronaut Raja Chari, commander
Raja Chari, 44, is one of NASA's newest group of astronauts, joining the astronaut corps in 2017 along with his Crew 3 crewmate Kayla Barron. He is trained as a test pilot from the U.S. Navy test pilot school and is the Crew 3 mission commander, marking the first time a rookie commercial crew astronaut was named to the position.
Chari graduated with a masters degree from MIT in aeronautics and astronautics and has logged over 2,500 flight hours. He has always been fascinated with flying, and chose to go to test pilot school as it combined two of his favorite things: engineering and flying.
He was the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California when he was selected as an astronaut and following two years of astronaut training, Chari went on to become the Director of the Joint Test Team for NASA's commercial crew program.
In 2020, NASA announced its cadre of astronauts that will be part of the agency's return to the moon; Chari was announced as one of the 18 astronauts selected.
NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, pilot
Tom Marshburn, 61, is a physician, who is trained in emergency medicine, and started his career at NASA in 1994 as a flight surgeon.
Selected as an astronaut in 2004, Marshburn is a veteran of two spaceflights: STS-127 and Expedition 34/35. Prior to joining the astronaut corps, he served as a flight surgeon, assigned to the space shuttle medical operations and to the joint U.S./Russian space program. He was then promoted to Medical Operations Lead for the ISS.
He completed his first spaceflight, STS-127 in 2009, having logged more than 376 hours in space and just under 19 hours over the course of three spacewalks. Marshburn launched to the space station on his second flight in 2012, where he racked up an additional 146 days in space and another 5.5 hours spacewalk time as part of an emergency spacewalk to repair a leaking ammonia pump.
Marshburn is the only veteran astronaut on the Crew 3 mission, and will serve as the mission's pilot.
NASA astronaut Kayla Barron, mission specialist
Kayla Barron, 34, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval academy, having earned her master's degree in Nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge. She's one of the first class of women to be commissioned as a submarine officer.
She then joined the astronaut corps in 2017, along with her Crew 3 crewmate, Raja Chari. Barron is serving as a mission specialist for the flight and the Crew 3 mission will mark her first spaceflight.
Barron says she has never witnessed a rocket launch up close, so her flight will be her first launch all-around. She told Space.com in a prelaunch chat that she is most excited to hopefully log some spacewalk time.
As part of her duties as a mission specialist, Barron will monitor the Crew Dragon's launch and re-entry phases during flight to make sure everything is progressing nominally. Once on board the ISS, she will serve as a flight engineer.
Also selected as one of NASA's Artemis astronauts, Barron could join Chari as one of the two astronauts that could walk on the lunar surface one day.
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, mission specialist
Matthias Maurer, 51, is a German astronaut with the European Space Agency. He studied materials engineering before joining Europe's astronaut corps in 2017. (He was retroactively added to ESA's astronaut class of 2009.) He started out as a crew support engineer before graduating to astronaut candidate in 2015.
Prior to that, in 2014, Maurer took part in the CAVES mission, an analogue mission where a team of astronauts live and work in an underground cave in order to simulate the isolated conditions of outer space.
He then participated in another analogue mission — NASA's NEEMO 21 (NASA Extreme Environment Operations Mission) — where he and three other crewmates lived in an underwater habitat for 16 days. Maurer and his crew tested out technologies and strategies that NASA and its partners will use for future Mars missions.
Maurer says he is bringing up some special German food to share with his crewmates. "It's Ragu that's made from potato soup — typical German food — and I'll be sharing it with my crewmates," he said during a prelaunch news briefing on Oct. 7. "It's a surprise for me, so I haven't tested it yet. But I'm pretty sure it will be very delicious."
He is the second European astronaut to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, following the footsteps of French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, who launched in April as part of the Crew-2 mission. He will serve as a mission specialist on the flight, along with crewmate Kayla Barron.
Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Amy Thompson is a Florida-based space and science journalist, who joined Space.com as a contributing writer in 2015. She's passionate about all things space and is a huge science and science-fiction geek. Star Wars is her favorite fandom, with that sassy little droid, R2D2 being her favorite. She studied science at the University of Florida, earning a degree in microbiology. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, VICE, Smithsonian, and many more. Now she chases rockets, writing about launches, commercial space, space station science, and everything in between.