Indian American led NASA space mission set to launch on October 31


The Indian American-led space crew of NASA’s and SpaceX’s Crew-3 are in the final leg of launching the next rotational crew to the space station on October 31.

The Crew-3 flight will carry NASA astronauts Raja Chari will command the mission; Tom Marshburn will be the pilot and Kayla Barron will be the mission specialist. The crew also includes European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, who will serve as a mission specialist.

This is the third crew rotation mission with astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Elon Musk led SpaceX will launch the four astronauts on Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft will dock with the station the next day.

The four-member team will stay onboard the microgravity laboratory for a period of six months conducting several experiments that will push the boundary for human space exploration. The team will work with Crew-2 astronauts and members of Expedition 66 currently onboard the ISS, for a very short period, taking over the work.

The four members had entered into quarantine for the mission on October 16. The quarantine is a routine procedure part of the final preparations for all missions to the space station. NASA said that spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine will help ensure the crew is healthy, protecting themselves and the astronauts already on the space station.

Meanwhile additional safeguards are being ensured due to the coronavirus pandemic as Chari, Marshburn, Barron, and Maurer, as well as those in direct, close contact with the crew, will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution.

“With the Crew-3 launch date adjustment, return of Crew-2 with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, currently is planned for early November with splashdown of Crew Dragon Endeavour at one of seven landing zones off the coast of Florida,” NASA said in a blog post.

This is the first flight for Indian American astronaut Raja Chari, who was selected as the commander for the mission in 2020 and had said that he is proud to be working and training with Matthias Maurer and Thomas Henry Marshburn in preparation for a mission to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Chari was born in Milwaukee but considers Cedar Falls, Iowa, his hometown. He is a colonel in the US Air Force and joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot. In a statement detailing his profile, NASA said Chari has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time in his career.