Elon Musk continues to make news, this time through his company SpaceX, which this week sent four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a new mission for NASA.
On Wednesday, April 27, NASA’s first crew, composed of an equal number of men and women, departed before dawn from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, taking 16 hours to reach the space laboratory, according to the Associated Press (AP).
SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission, which is Musk’s company’s fifth for NASA, carried among its crew members Jessica Watkins, the first African-American to make a long-term trip to space. They will spend five months in the orbiting laboratory.
Before liftoff of the Falcon rocket carrying the capsule, named Freedom, NASA astronaut Commander Kjell Lindgren said over the radio:
“Our heartfelt thank you to every one of you that made this possible. Now let Falcon roar and Freedom ring.” Minutes later, once the capsule was orbiting Earth, Lindgren reported, “It was a great ride.”
The Crew-4 team joined seven astronauts already on the ISS, whom they will replace: Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari from NASA, Matthias Maurer from ESA and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov.
A week after the arrival of the new crew, they are expected to return to Earth in their own SpaceX capsule.
This week also saw the return of the first private mission, with three millionaire businessmen and an astronaut on board, which had departed 17 days ago from the Kennedy Space Center.
The civilian crew paid $55 million each to visit the space station and conduct, during their stay at NASA’s space laboratory, a list of more scientific and technological research, among them related to aging, heart health and stem cells.
This private mission, which concluded Monday, encountered no major problems, although the splashdown was delayed for a week by high winds, according to AP.