Washington: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Dragon spacecraft was on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina onboard.
They will spend up to six months aboard the ISS. Wakata is the sole spaceflight veteran among the astronauts, having spent more than 11 months in space.
“Missions like Crew-5 are proof we are living through a golden era of commercial space exploration. It’s a new era powered by the spirit of partnership, fueled by scientific ingenuity, and inspired by the quest for new discoveries,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
During their stay, Crew-5 will conduct more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations, including studies on printing human organs in space and better understanding heart disease.
“While our eyes are focused upward on the heavens, let us never forget these missions will also better life here on Earth,” Nelsons said in a statement.
This is the sixth SpaceX flight with NASA astronauts — including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020 to the space station. Elon Musk-owned SpaceX has now sent 30 humans to space.
Mann, Cassada, Wakata, and Kikina will join the Expedition 68 crew of NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.
For a short time, the number of crew aboard the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-4 astronauts Hines Lindgren, Watkins, and Cristoforetti return to Earth a few days later.
Crew-5 will spend several months aboard the space station conducting new scientific research in areas, such as cardiovascular health, bioprinting, and fluid behavior in microgravity to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and to benefit life on Earth.