SpaceX with Japanese astronaut aboard blasts off for space station

Pablo Tucker
November 16, 2020

Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi is among the four-member crew headed to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission.

The three Americans and one Japanese should reach the International Space Station late Monday for a five- to six-month stay, following Sunday's liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The two are expected to launch the capsule's first operational mission, Crew-1, at 7:27PM Eastern, with NASA TV offering livestreamed coverage starting at 3:15PM.

SpaceX is scheduled to fly seven Dragon missions to the space station over the next 14 months, three manned, and four cargo, as the United States government space agency NASA increasingly turns to commercial cooperation as it expands space exploration, including programmess to explore the moon and Mars.


As is now more or less routine, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket assigned to NASA's Crew-1 mission performed flawlessly over the 12 minutes it was involved in the launch, including nominal booster and upper stage performance, a successful booster landing at sea, and a smooth Dragon deployment from Falcon 9's expendable second stage.

NASA turned to private companies to haul cargo and crews to the space station, following the 2011 retirement of its space shuttles.

"Our astronauts have been in quarantine for weeks, and they should not have had contact with anybody", NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Friday. He tweeted that he "most likely" had a moderate case of COVID-19.


NASA's other crew transport provider, Boeing, has yet to launch astronauts.

For 197 days, Glover and the rest of the crew will conduct research and scientific experiments such as growing radishes to better understand plant growth and nutrition in microgravity; conducting cancer therapy research; studying how mining with microbes might be used on asteroids and continuing research into the effects of microgravity on the human heart.

Three of the four astronauts on this mission have been to space previously, but for pilot Victor Glover, it's his first time.


High winds have already caused one 24-hour delay. The company is still working to overcome software problems following last December's marred space debut of its Starliner capsule. With Kennedy back in astronaut-launching action, NASA can stop buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets.

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