NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Mission – What You Need To Know

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Left to right: Jessica Watkins, NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy. Credit: SpaceX

" data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">Nasa and SpaceX are once again preparing to launch astronauts on a US rocket and spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 is NASA’s fourth crew rotation mission that will carry an international crew of four astronauts on a science expedition to the microgravity lab.

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, along with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, will blast off aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission is scheduled to lift off no earlier than Wednesday, April 20 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The crew will spend several months conducting science and maintenance activities aboard the orbiting laboratory before the four astronauts return to Earth in the fall of 2022.

SpaceX Crew-4 Mission Badge

The insignia representing the SpaceX Crew-4 mission. Credit: NASA

The Crew-4 mission will pilot a new Crew Dragon spacecraft and launch on a Falcon 9 booster that has already sent four missions into space. It is traditional for the first astronauts to fly a new capsule to name their spacecraft; Crew-4 chose “Freedom” to celebrate a fundamental human right, as well as the industry and innovation that emanates from the free human spirit.

Lindgren and Hines were assigned to the Crew-4 mission in February 2021 and began working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human spacecraft and for their time aboard the space station. Cristoforetti was assigned to the mission in March 2021 and Watkins was added as a fourth crew member in November 2021.

The crew

Lindgren is the commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-4 mission. He is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, and will serve as the Expedition 67 flight engineer aboard the station. This will be Lindgren’s second spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2009. In 2015, he spent 141 days aboard the station as Expedition 44/45 flight engineer. Board-certified in emergency medicine, he previously worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as a flight surgeon supporting space station training and operations and served as an assistant crew surgeon for the space shuttle flight STS-130 and Expedition 24. Lindgren was born in Taipei, Taiwan and spent most of his childhood in England before graduating from the US Air Force Academy.

Hines is the pilot of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the mission’s second-in-command. He is responsible for spacecraft systems and performance. Aboard the station, he will serve as an Expedition 67 flight engineer. This will be his first flight since being selected as an astronaut in 2017. Hines served more than 22 years in the United States Air Force as a test pilot, fighter pilot and training pilot. Before his selection in 2017, he was a research pilot at Johnson.

NASA SpaceX Crew-4

The official crew portrait of SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts representing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. From left to right, Pilot Robert Hines, Mission Specialists Samantha Cristoforetti and Jessica Watkins, and Commander Kjell Lindgren. Hines, Watkins and Lindgren are NASA astronauts and Cristoforetti is an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut. Credit: NASA

Watkins is a mission specialist for Crew-4 and will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and reentry phases of flight. Once aboard the station, she will become a flight engineer for Expedition 67. Watkins grew up in Lafayette, Colorado, and studied geology at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., and the University of California, Los Angeles. As a geologist, she studied the surface of " data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">March and was a science team contributor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, working on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. She was also selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017, and this will be her first trip to space.

Cristoforetti will also serve as a mission specialist, working to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and reentry phases of flight. She will be a flight engineer for Expedition 67. This will be her second trip to space after five months in 2015 as an Expedition 42/43 flight engineer. Born in Milan, Italy, she was a fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force before being selected as an ESA astronaut in 2009. In 2019, she was commander of the 23rd operations mission of NASA extreme environment mission during a 10-day stay in Aquarius. , the only underwater research station in the world.

Mission overview

Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A on a Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its four passengers to around 17,500 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 first stage that will be used to launch this mission has already flown on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission to the station in June 2021, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission in November 2021, and the mission SpaceX’s Turksat 5B in December 2021. This will be the first crewed launch on a booster making its fourth flight.

Once in orbit, SpaceX crew and mission control will monitor a series of automatic maneuvers that will guide Crew-4 astronauts to the forward end of the station’s Harmony module. After several maneuvers to gradually raise its orbit, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with their new home in orbit. The spacecraft is designed to dock autonomously, but astronauts can take control and pilot manually, if necessary.

After docking, the Crew-4 astronauts will be greeted inside the station by the seven-member Expedition 67 crew. Astronauts on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission will undock from the space station and will crash off the coast of Florida several days after the crew. -4 arrival.

Crew-4 astronauts will conduct exciting new scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit and benefit all life on Earth. The experiments will include studies on the aging immune system, organic materials alternatives to concrete, and cardiorespiratory effects during and after long-term exposure to microgravity. These are just a few of the more than 200 scientists experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during their mission.

Launching alongside the crew of the Dragon capsule is an investigation that aims to restore meaningful vision to people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. the Manufacture of artificial retina based on proteins one experiment is testing the manufacture of artificial retinas or retinal implants in microgravity, where it is expected that their production can be optimized.

Smart-Tex shirts are also traveling in space aboard the Crew Dragon as part of the German Space Agency (DLR) investigation called Wireless Dial-2. The shirts are equipped with sensors, cabling and a communication module to wirelessly transmit data to a base station. The shirt is designed to monitor cardiovascular activity like relative blood pressure and can provide details of heart contraction rate and valve opening and closing times – something normally only accessible by ultrasound or CT scan . These types of wearable technologies could be used to monitor health throughout a long duration space exploration mission and could lead to a more flexible implementation of this technology in health monitoring equipment on Earth.

While aboard the orbiting lab, Crew-4 astronauts will see cargo spacecraft, including the SpaceX cargo ship Dragon in early summer and the Northrop Grumman Cygnus in late summer. They will also be on board for the arrival of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission, currently scheduled for May. Crew-4 astronauts are to complete a pair of spacewalks to continue preparing the station for new solar panels that will increase the station’s total available power supply.

At the end of the mission, Crew Dragon will undock autonomously with all four astronauts on board, exit the space station, and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown just off the coast of Florida, a SpaceX recovery ship will pick up the crew and bring them back to shore to board a plane for the return trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Crew-4 mission continues NASA’s efforts to restore and maintain American leadership in human spaceflight. Regular rotational commercial crew missions allow NASA to continue the important research and technology research taking place on the station. Such research benefits the people of Earth and lays the foundation for future exploration of the Moon and Mars beginning with the agency’s Artemis missions, which include landing the first woman and person of color on Earth. lunar surface.

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