The crewmembers of SpaceX's next astronaut mission to the International Space Station have arrived at the launch site.
The upcoming mission, known as Crew-6, is scheduled to lift off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Feb. 26 at 2:07 a.m. EST (0707 GMT). Crew-6 will send NASA astronauts Warren "Woody" Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This will be the fourth flight for Endeavor.
The Crew-6 astronauts reported to KSC today (Feb. 21) at around 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT) to begin final preparations for the upcoming mission, and held a press conference on the tarmac immediately after arriving.
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During that press conference, NASA officials praised the international cooperation that has enabled the upcoming mission. "It definitely takes a team to make this happen," said Kelvin Manning, deputy director of KSC. "And this mission is a great example of our successful partnership between government, industry and our international partners."
Dana Hutcherson, deputy manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said that "it's amazing to realize that we are now on our sixth rotational mission and are preparing for the seventh launch, sending astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil." Hutcherson hailed the Commercial Crew Program, which has expanded access to the ISS and the science that can be conducted there. "It is an honor to represent NASA's Commercial Crew Program and welcome this international crew as I share in their anticipation in executing this mission for which they have been preparing for so diligently," added Hutcherson.
Astronaut Hoburg shared in the excitement over the agency's Commercial Crew Program and the upcoming mission.
"It's amazing how far we've come in the Commercial Crew Program. We weren't launching from Florida when I showed up at NASA, and now here we are on a beautiful day arriving in Florida," Hoburg told reporters today. "And it's just such an exciting special moment. Amazing crew. We have an amazing team throughout NASA and our industry partners supporting us, and it's just a real honor to be part of this crew. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us on the ISS, and we are excited and ready to get to work."
Crew-6 commander Stephen Bowen, a three-time NASA space shuttle astronaut and retired U.S. Navy captain, compared the cramped quarters aboard the space station to those found on submarines. "You know, it's interesting — when I first got to the space station on my first flight, it very much reminded me of a submarine with close quarters. Even the odor — and [it's] not necessarily a good thing — was very submarine-like," Bowen said.
The United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Sultan Al-Neyadi, who will be the first UAE astronaut to conduct a long-duration mission aboard the space station, thanked the many agencies and teams that trained and prepared the astronauts for their upcoming voyage.
"We can't thank everybody enough that helped prepare us for this mission. We thank our families, our trainers, throughout the agencies and I thank my colleagues, my teams. I think we have a great team," Al-Neyadi said. "I can't ask for more of a team. I think we are ready physically, mentally and technically. And we can't wait to launch to space and conduct the mission."
Speaking through an interpreter, cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev likewise thanked all of the personnel who have helped make the upcoming mission possible. "We have been training for months, for days now, and it's all behind us and we are ready to fly. We're ready to go. We just have to do it now. And I would like to thank everyone and good luck to our crew," Fedyaev said.
The next milestone for Crew-6 will come when mission managers from NASA, SpaceX and the UAE's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre hold a Flight Readiness Review teleconference on Tuesday evening (Feb. 21) at approximately 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT).
NASA's coverage of the Crew-6 launch will commence on Saturday (Feb. 25) at 10:00 p.m. EST (0300 GMT on Feb. 26). Watch the launch live on NASA TV or here on Space.com courtesy of the agency.
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