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SpaceX launches eighth long-duration crew to orbit for Nasa

Technology Desk | banglanews24.com
Update: 2024-03-04 10:34:43
SpaceX launches eighth long-duration crew to orbit for Nasa [photo collected]

A SpaceX rocket lifted off from Florida on March 4 carrying a crew of three American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut on their way to the International Space Station (ISS) to begin a six-month science mission in Earth orbit.

The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, topped with an autonomously operated Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endeavor, was launched from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, along Florida’s Atlantic coast, at 10.53pm EST (11.53am on March 4 in Singapore).

A live Nasa-SpaceX webcast showed the 82m tall rocket ascending from the launch tower as its nine Merlin engines roared to life in billowing clouds of vapour and a reddish fireball that lit up the night sky.

The four crew members were scheduled to reach the space station early on March 5 after a 16-hour flight, docking with the orbital laboratory some 420km above Earth.

Designated Crew 8, the mission marks the eighth long-duration ISS team that Nasa has flown aboard a SpaceX launch vehicle since the private rocket venture founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk and headquartered near Los Angeles began sending American astronauts to orbit in May 2020.

The latest ISS crew is led by mission commander Matthew Dominick, 42, a US Navy test pilot making his first trip to space, and veteran Nasa astronaut Michael Barratt, 64, a physician who has logged two previous flights to the space station and two spacewalks. Dr Barratt is serving as mission pilot.

Rounding out the team are fellow Nasa astronaut Jeanette Epps, 53, an aerospace engineer and former technical intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, and cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, 41, a former military aircraft engineer. Both he and Dr Epps, like Commander Dominick, are spaceflight rookies.

Major Grebenkin is the latest cosmonaut to fly aboard a US spacecraft under a ride-sharing deal signed in 2022 by Nasa and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, despite heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Crew 8 will be welcomed aboard the space station by seven current ISS occupants: three Russians and the four astronauts of Crew 7, two from Nasa, one from Japan and one from Denmark. The Crew 7 team is expected to depart the space station for a flight back to Earth about a week after Crew 8‘s arrival.

Crew 8 is expected to remain aboard the space station until the end of August, collectively performing about 250 experiments in the microgravity environment of the orbital platform.

Mr Joel Montalbano, ISS programme manager at Nasa, told reporters last week that the US was keeping a close eye on a small leak on the Russian side of the research platform, the latest of several recent issues on the Russian side.

A hatch is currently closed to isolate the leak from the rest of the ISS.

The ISS, about the length of a football field and the largest human-made object in space, has been continuously operated by a consortium led by the US and Russia that includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

The first hardware for the outpost was

launched 25 years ago. It was conceived, in part, as a multinational venture designed to improve relations between Washington and Moscow following the Soviet Union’s collapse and the end of Cold War rivalries that gave rise to the original US-Soviet space race in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nasa has said it is committed to keeping the space station in operation for at least six more years.

Space remains a rare area of cooperation between the US and Russia since Moscow’s forces marched into Ukraine.

The US in February imposed fresh sanctions on 500 Russian targets, seeking also to exact a cost for the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison.

Source: The Straits Times 

BDST: 1033 HRS, MAR 04, 2024
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