On Sunday, NASA will send four astronauts to the International Space Station.


On Sunday, NASA will send four astronauts to the International Space Station.

On Sunday, NASA and SpaceX will launch four astronauts to the International Space Station, including three first-timers.

The crew of mission “Crew-3” will stay on the orbital outpost for six months, performing research in fields such as material sciences, health, and botany in order to guide future deep space travel and benefit life on Earth.

At 2:21 a.m. (0621 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Americans Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as German Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency (ESA), will launch aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft designated “Endurance” atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

“Last night we got to go see Endurance in the hangar as they were getting ready to bring it out to the pad, and really put our hands on the Dragon, which was a pretty special experience,” Chari, the mission’s commander, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Only Marshburn has been to space before, out of the four. In 2009, the medical doctor travelled aboard the Space Shuttle, and in 2012-13, he flew aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Barron, who was selected for the NASA astronaut corps alongside Chari in 2017, the most current recruiting, previously served in the Navy as a submarine warfare officer, and told reporters she saw many connections between her experience and traveling to space.

The duo is also a candidate for NASA’s Artemis missions, which will return humans to the Moon later this decade.

Maurer, a materials science engineer, will be the 12th German in space, joining fellow ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet of France on the ISS for a few days before the Frenchman returns to Earth with the rest of his Crew-2 colleagues.

Endurance will dock with the space station at 12:10 a.m. Monday after a 22-hour journey (0410 GMT).

An experiment to grow plants in space without soil or other growth media, as well as another to manufacture optical fibers in microgravity, which past research suggests will be superior in quality to those made on Earth, are among the mission’s scientific highlights.

Maurer will assist in the operationalization of the European Robotic Arm, which is presently being deployed on the Russian side of the International Space Station, as well as the testing of CIMON, an artificial intelligence assistant created by DLR, Airbus, and IBM.

“It’s an experiment that’s setting the way for investigation,” he explained.

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