Meet the 4 astronauts about to launch on SpaceX's first operational human mission for NASA
  • SpaceX's first operational human mission for NASA is set to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday.
  • The crew includes three NASA astronauts and a veteran Japanese astronaut.
  • NASA astronaut Shannon Walker is set to become the first woman ever to fly in a commercial spacecraft.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The demonstration phase is over.

On Sunday evening, SpaceX's first operational human mission for NASA, called Crew-1, will take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew consists of three NASA astronauts — Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover — as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

After roughly 27 hours in flight, the Crew Dragon spaceship carrying the four astronauts will dock to the International Space Station, where NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins and two Russian cosmonauts, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, will be waiting to greet them.

The Crew-1 astronauts plan to stay on the ISS for the standard six months. During that time, they'll conduct space walks, do science experiments, and work on regular station maintenance. 

The mission was initially, though tentatively, scheduled to launch in late September. But it was delayed twice in order to better coordinate with other ISS crew rotations, then again because of a problem with a rocket engine discovered during a test launch. 

All systems are now ready to ferry the astronauts into space this weekend, but that's assuming the weather is favorable. Although Saturday was previously the target for lauch, it was pushed to Sunday at 7:27 p.m. ET due to weather issues.

Meet the crew NASA selected for the mission.

Mike Hopkins, commander

Astronaut Mike Hopkins stows items in a locker in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.NASA

Hopkins grew up on a farm in Missouri. Before becoming a NASA astronaut in 2009, he was a special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A colonel in the Air Force, he served as a flight test engineer. 

Friday will mark Hopkins' second trip to space. He first went to the ISS in September 2013 as a member of Expedition 37/38. During that mission, Hopkins logged 166 days in space and conducted two spacewalks.

"I can't wait to get to float again," he told Business Insider. 

Hopkins was announced as a Crew-1 member in 2018. As commander, he's tasked with ensuring that the mission runs smoothly. That includes making a sacrifice: The ISS is currently short one crew quarters, so Hopkins will sleep on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, Resilience, which will remain docked to the ISS for the entire time the astronauts remain there. Eventually, however, a sleeping pod is expected to be sent to the space station on a cargo mission.

"The nerves start to really pile on as you get closer to launch," Hopkins said during a pre-mission news conference. "At the same time, we're having a very good time here in crew quarters. They're feeding us very well — can't complain at all with that. We're having a lot of good laughs."

Victor Glover, pilot

NASA astronaut Victor Glover cheers after being selected to fly on the second crewed mission of SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship, August 3, 2018.David J. Phillip/AP

Glover is the only Crew-1 member who hasn't flown in space before, but he has logged more than 3,000 hours of flying experience on Earth. Like Hopkins, he was selected as a Crew-1 member in 2018. He will serve as the pilot.

"I really look forward to every single bit of it," he told Business Insider. "Every time I do something in space, it will be the first time."

Glover became part of NASA's 21st astronaut class in 2013, while serving as a Legislative Fellow in the US Senate. He is also a former Navy commander, aviator, and test pilot. 

Glover and his wife, who both hail from California, have four children. As the Crew-1 mission approached, their family had to be careful about their behavior during the pandemic, he said.

"We've essentially been isolating since mid-March," Glover said. "They're ready for me to go, one because they want to see their father accomplish one of his lifelong dreams, but they also really want to go back to school and have a chance to see their friends and go to the mall."

Shannon Walker, mission specialist — and trailblazer

Walker, a mission specialist, was born in Houston, Texas. She was hired by NASA in 1995.

Walker worked on robotics hardware and other initiatives before being selected as an astronaut in 2004. She spent 161 days on the space station in 2010. 

She was assigned to the Crew-1 mission in February of this year. She'll be the first woman to fly to space in a commercial spacecraft.

"To be honest, I haven't really put much thought into the fact that I am the first woman on a commercial vehicle," Walker told Business Insider. "I expect to be the first of many, and look forward to the day that we don't have to note such events."

Ahead of the launch, Walker — who is married to astronaut Andy Thomas — said she's looking forward to having a 360-degree view of Earth again.

"In some ways, it's the start of all those science-fiction movies that we watched as kids coming to fruition where you've got entities living and working out in space and off the planet," she said. "Just to be at the forefront of that is enormously exciting."

Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist — and a spaceflight veteran

JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi participates in equipment testing for the Crew-1 mission at SpaceX headquarters.SpaceX

Noguchi, who will also serve as a mission specialist, is an aeronautical engineer from Japan. A former Boy Scout, he was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and has spent 177 days in space.

Like Walker, he was also appointed to the Crew-1 mission in 2020. He is the team's only non-NASA member, and the fifth Japanese astronaut to fly in space.

Once he rockets to space on the Crew Dragon, Noguchi will have flown in three different spacecraft: He was on the US Space Shuttle in 2005 and a Russian Soyuz expedition in 2009. 

"I'll be the first one to experience Space Shuttle, Soyuz, and SpaceX. I feel very honored," Noguchi told Business Insider. "Obviously, this is a transition era. This is the beginning of the commercial spaceflight program. I'm happy to live long enough, from the Space Shuttle age all the way to commercial."

Dave Mosher, Morgan McFall-Johnsen, and Susie Neilson contributed reporting.

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