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article imageWith second launch, regular ISS crew flights begin for NASA

By Karen Graham     Nov 16, 2020 in Science
SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company. The crew of three Americans and one Japanese astronaut will arrive at the space station late Monday.
It took only nine minutes for the Crew Dragon space capsule - named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 - to reach orbit. As the capsule was headed over the North Atlantic, Resilience was moving at the astounding speed of 2,970 meters (8,910 feet) per second.
“By working together through these difficult times, you’ve inspired the nation, the world, and in no small part the name of this incredible vehicle, Resilience,” Commander Mike Hopkins said right before liftoff. Once reaching orbit, he radioed: “That was one heck of a ride.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on...
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 15, 2020
Gregg Newton, AFP
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk had to observe the historic launch from afar, as he said he “most likely” had a moderate case of COVID-19. NASA policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone testing positive for coronavirus to quarantine and remain isolated, according to the Associated Press.
The space capsule is expected to dock with the ISS on Monday at 11 pm ET. The trip would have been shorter if the weather had not interfered with the planned Saturday launch because the ISS was lined up in its orbit in a way that would have allowed the Crew Dragon to reach it in about eight hours. Instead, the trip is taking close to 27 hours.
The successful second launch of a crew to the ISS is a landmark for NASA and SpaceX. This means that NASA can again do crew rotations between the U.S. and the space station, after years of delay. Officials say that this equates to more people engaging in more scientific research at the orbiting lab,
Musk was replaced at Kennedy Space Center by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. She wouldn’t give Musk’s whereabouts, but said he was “tied in very closely to the launch.” Shotwell told reporters, “I have a series of texts to prove it." After the capsule reached orbit and the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic. Musk tweeted a single red heart.
Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to watch the launch. “I didn’t start breathing until about a minute after it took off,” Pence said during a stop at SpaceX Launch Control to congratulate the workers.
More about spacex launch, nasa crewed flights, International Space Station, crew rotations, Science
 
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