A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Dragon spacecraft was launched Oct. 5 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina on board.
This is the fifth crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Mann, Cassada, Wakata, and Kikini launched at 12 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center to begin a six-month mission on board the orbital outpost.
Mann, the first Native American woman in space, is mission commander; Cassada is the pilot; Wakata and Anna Kikina, the first cosmonaut to go to the ISS via SpaceX, will serve as mission specialists for their science expedition in microgravity aboard the space station.
“Missions like Crew-5 are proof we are living through a golden era of commercial space exploration. It’s a new era powered by the spirit of partnership, fueled by scientific ingenuity, and inspired by the quest for new discoveries,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “During their stay aboard the International Space Station, Crew-5 will conduct more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations, including studies on printing human organs in space and better understanding heart disease. While our eyes are focused upward on the heavens, let us never forget these missions will also better life here on Earth.”
This is the first spaceflight for Mann, Cassada, and Kikina, and the fifth for Wakata, 59, the oldest Japanese astronaut to go into space. He will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 68. Wakata’s four previous space flights were on the U.S. Space Shuttle in 1996, 2000, and 2009, and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2013. This will be his third long-term expedition at the ISS.
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.
During Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft maneuvers from its mission control center in Hawthorne (Los Angeles County) and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Dragon docked autonomously to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module on Oct. 6. A ceremony was held to welcome the crew aboard the orbital outpost.
Mann, Cassada, Wakata, and Kikina join the space station’s Expedition 68 crew of NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin. For a short time, the number of crew aboard the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-4 astronauts Hines Lindgren, Watkins, and Cristoforetti return to Earth a few days later.
Crew-5 will spend several months aboard the space station conducting new scientific research in areas, such as cardiovascular health, bioprinting, and fluid behavior in microgravity to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and to benefit life on Earth.
“The International Space Station continues to serve a critical role in helping NASA and our partners understand and maximize the unique attributes of the microgravity environment,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. “I am grateful to the many people who worked to ensure a safe Crew-5 launch despite the recent hurricane so the crew can fulfill their mission to the orbiting laboratory.”
The Crew-5 mission continues NASA’s efforts to maintain American leadership in human spaceflight. Regular commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the station. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future human exploration through the agency’s Artemis missions, which will send astronauts to the Moon to prepare for future expeditions to Mars.
Learn more about NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission and Commercial Crew Program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew