By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
It was a picture-perfect launch during a sun-splashed afternoon on Florida’s Space Coast, as NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann and Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission.
“The weather couldn’t have been better here at the Kennedy Space Center,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston, during a postlaunch news conference at Kennedy about 90 minutes after launch. “We didn’t have to look at any weather on a monitor, we could just look out the window and see a beautiful blue sky.”
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Dragon spacecraft – named Endurance – atop, lifted off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A at noon EDT. Crew members are now a few hours into their 29-hour trip to the International Space Station for a science expedition mission.
“It was an outstanding launch,” said Joel Montalbano, manager of the International Space Station Program at Johnson. “Just a fantastic day to be in human spaceflight.”
Crew-5 marks the first spaceflight for Mann, Cassada, and Kikina, and the fifth for Wakata. This is the sixth SpaceX flight with NASA astronauts – including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020 to the space station – as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Mann has become the first Native American woman in space.
After docking, Crew-5 crewmates will be welcomed inside the station by the seven-member crew of Expedition 68. The astronauts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission will undock from the space station and splash down off the coast of Florida later this month.
“These are real human endeavors, and there’s a team here that had to recover from the hurricane (Ian) last week,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “The fact that we’re here today is a testimony to all the work that team did.”
Crew-5 is scheduled for a long-duration stay of up to six months aboard the space station before returning to Earth in the spring of 2023. The crew will conduct new scientific studies to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth.
Planned experiments include studies on printing human organs in space, understanding fuel systems operating on the Moon, and advancing research in heart disease. These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during the Crew-5 mission.
Safely in orbit, Endurance remains on schedule for a rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory for tomorrow’s main activities.
“Dragon has completed its initial on-orbit checkouts and soon it will start performing a series of burns that will help it catch up with the International Space Station for docking tomorrow,” said Sarah Walker, director of Dragon Mission Management at SpaceX.
NASA TV and the agency’s website are providing comprehensive coverage of upcoming Crew-5 events. On Thursday, Oct. 6, live mission coverage begins at 3:15 a.m. EDT – continuing through Dragon spacecraft docking at 4:57 p.m. EDT, hatch opening at 6:42 p.m., and the welcome ceremony at the space station at 8:15 p.m.