NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have selected a trio of 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 crewed mission to space — to the International Space Station in November. Now, as SpaceX readies for its Crew-2 mission, set to launch in the spring of 2021, three astronauts for the following crewed mission to the space station have been announced.
Crew-3 will include NASA astronauts Raja Chari (who will serve as commander of the mission) and Tom Marshburn (who will serve as pilot), as well as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer (who will serve as a mission specialist), NASA and ESA announced Monday (Dec. 14). A fourth crew member will be announced later, filling the available seats in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule.
Crew-3 is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida sometime in the fall of 2021.
This mission will be Chari's first spaceflight. A former U.S. Air Force colonel, Chari is an experienced test pilot who has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time. Chari is also a member of the Artemis Team — a newly announced group of 18 NASA astronauts who will begin training for missions within the agency's ambitious Artemis program.
Marshburn is a medical doctor who served in the astronaut corps as a flight surgeon at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and became medical operations lead for the space station. The Crew-3 flight will be Marshburn's third trip to the space station and his second long-duration mission, following a stint as a station crew member in 2009 and his second flight in 2013.
Crew-3 will also be Maurer's first flight to space. The ESA astronaut is from Sankt Wendel in the German state of Saarland. Maurer has worked in engineering and research and spent 16 days training underwater 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 orbiting lab.
While Crew-3 will be SpaceX's third crew rotation mission to space, it will be the company's fourth astronaut launch; before Crew-1, SpaceX successfully completed its Demo-2 mission earlier this year. Demo-2 demonstrated that the company's Crew Dragon vehicle could safely ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. With the success of Demo-2, SpaceX went on to launch Crew-1 on Nov. 14.
These commercial crew missions mean that NASA is once again able to launch astronauts from the United States instead of from Kazakhstan on Russian Soyuz vehicles, as has been required since the agency's shuttle program ended in 2011.
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