Two NASA astronauts, along with astronauts from the Japanese and Russian space agencies, are embarking on a six-month mission to the International Space Station. You can catch the action live right here.
The SpaceX Crew-5 mission for NASA, the fifth under a Commercial Crew Program agreement, is slated to blast off at noon ET on Wednesday, October 4 from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Hurricane Ian blasted through the region only a week ago, but the facility emerged unscathed from the powerful storm. A launch readiness review on Tuesday cleared the mission for launch, pending the resolution of three minor open issues which were subsequently addressed.
A webcast of the Falcon 9 launch started at 8:00 a.m. ET and is available at NASA TV, NASA’s YouTube page, and at the SpaceX website. Should the launch have to be scrubbed, a backup opportunity is available on Thursday, October 6, at 11:38 a.m. ET.
The Falcon 9 reusable first stage will attempt a landing on the Just Read the Instructions droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Riding inside the Crew Dragon will be NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. Crew Dragon Endurance is expected to dock at the ISS Harmony module at 4:57 p.m. ET on October 6, where they’ll be greeted by the Expedition 68 crew.
Kikina’s participation in the launch is on account of a seat swap arrangement between NASA and Roscosmos. On September 1, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and two cosmonauts flew to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz rocket, and now it’s NASA’s turn to return the favor. Kikina is set to become the first cosmonaut to ride aboard a SpaceX Dragon.
The seat swap arrangement comes at an exceptionally awkward time, as Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine rages on. NASA officials have kept relatively quiet about the war in an effort to preserve the international space-based partnership, but the agency openly rebuked Russia in July for using the ISS to promote its pro-war propaganda. Regardless, the seat swap is not a good look.
Once aboard the ISS, the crew will participate in over 200 science and technology experiments, including studies on human organ printing in space, an experiment to better understand how fuel systems will work on the Moon, and an investigation into heart disease.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts will soon have to say goodbye to the newly arrived crew, as that group is slated to depart the ISS several days after the arrival of Crew-5. Heading home are NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
More: Hurricane Ian Pushes NASA’s Next Moon Rocket Launch Attempt to November.