The SpaceX Dragon crew will blast off for the ISS

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is set to blast off early Monday for the International Space Station carrying two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and the other Emirati space traveller.

The SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 mission is set to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 01:45 (0645 GMT). Weather conditions are expected to be near perfect.

The Crew Dragon capsule, named Endeavour, is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 02:38 (0738 GMT) on Tuesday if all goes as planned.

NASA’s Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, Russia’s Andrey Fedyaev and Sultan al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates will spend six months on the orbiting space station.

Neyadi, 41, will be the fourth astronaut from an Arab country and the second from the oil-rich United Arab Emirates to travel to space; his compatriot Hazzaa al-Mansoori flew an eight-day mission in 2019.

Neyadi described the upcoming assignment as a “great honor”.

Hoburg, the Endeavor pilot, and Fedyaev, the Russian mission specialist, will also make their first space flights.

Fedyaev is the second Russian cosmonaut to fly to the ISS aboard a SpaceX rocket. NASA astronauts regularly fly to the station on Russian Soyuz capsules.

Space has been a rare site for cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the Russian offensive in Ukraine placed the two capitals in sharp opposition.

Such exchanges have continued despite these tensions.

Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, said politics rarely come up while in space.

Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev sits next to a photo of the note bearing the names of the four members of SpaceX Dragon Crew-6

Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev sits next to a photo of the note bearing the names of the four members of the SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 mission.

“We are all professionals. We stay focused on the mission itself,” said the mission commander. “It’s always been a good relationship we’ve had with cosmonauts when we first get into space.”

While aboard the ISS, Crew-6 members will conduct dozens of experiments, including studying how materials burn in microgravity and researching heart, brain and cartilage functions.

The current crew is the sixth to be carried by a SpaceX rocket to the ISS. The Endeavor capsule has flown into space three times.

NASA pays the private company SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the flying laboratory about every six months.

The space agency expects Crew-6 to have a multi-day handover with the four members of SpaceX Dragon Crew-5, which has been stationed on the ISS since October. Crew-5 will then return to Earth.

Rescue capsule

On board the ISS are also the Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev, as well as the NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.

They had been scheduled to return home on March 28, but the cooling system of their Soyuz MS-22 capsule was damaged by a small meteoroid in mid-December while docked with the ISS.

An unmanned Russian Soyuz capsule, MS-23, took off Friday from Kazakhstan to bring the three astronauts home. They are now scheduled to return to Earth in September.

The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of increased cooperation between the US and Russia after the space race in the Cold War.

Russia has used the aging but reliable Soyuz capsules to carry astronauts into space since the 1960s.

But in recent years, Russia’s space program has been characterized by a number of problems that have led to the loss of satellites and vehicles.

© 2023 AFP

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