After delays, NASA and SpaceX prepare for Crew-3 launch

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Good things come to those who wait. And after several delays, the wait is almost over for the launch of Crew-3 to the International Space Station. 

Crew-2 landed safely back on Earth on Monday night and now NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch Crew-3 on Wednesday night. 

The launch was initially scheduled for early Halloween morning, but ended up being delayed due to weather. Another delay occurred due to a medical issue with one of the astronauts. 

This crew is made up of NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron. European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer is the fourth crew member. The crew will spend six months in space.

What makes the Commercial Crews different from other crews that have launched to the International Space Station? 

The Commercial Crew Program is revolutionary as it has created a market for low-Earth orbit missions. The unique combination of government and commercial companies allows us to further our overall knowledge of space. 

“The Commercial Crew Program was developed as a way of creating a vehicle at a lower cost, basically to replace the rotation of human beings to the International Space Station. The space shuttle was an incredible vehicle, incredibly capable, also incredibly expensive. So they developed a way and came up with this concept of a Commercial Crew Program, which would allow a company to make a vehicle to take humans to space. And it wasn’t going to be owned entirely by NASA,” says NASA Astronaut Stephen Bowen. 

This is just the latest installment in what has been a historic stretch for the International Space Station. It’s hard to believe that the ISS has been continuously operating for twenty-one years!

Bowen is excited to see how the Commercial Crew Program will add to the legacy of the ISS. 

“We’ve been upgrading, we’ve been changing, we’ve been repairing, we’ve been fixing, but we’ve learned so much on the engineering side. What we can do for humans that will allow us to build better systems here down on earth and take it deeper into space for further exploration. So each increment, each exploration increment of the Space Station is unique, but that continuation is what really excites me.”

With NASA inviting commercial companies like SpaceX and Boeing to take part in these low-Earth orbit missions, they can turn their attention to future endeavors like Artemis. Artemis will mark a new chapter of lunar exploration. 

“In a sense it frees up some of the funding for Artemis to do that on the business side there’s that. As I said, every vehicle, every new way to space helps us understand another way to solve the problem,” says Bowen. 

Every lesson learned propels NASA to move forward to the next discovery. 

“So every mission will help us get to the Moon and stay on the Moon, as opposed to just coming back. So we’re going to go there and stay this time. That’s exciting.” 

Bowen knows this is just the beginning of new discoveries on the horizon.

“There’s so many things that this opens up the window to that won’t require government funding. It’ll allow NASA to continue to explore, to continue to ask those questions, to generate the answers and more questions.”

Crew-3 is scheduled for liftoff at 9:03 p.m. EST from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. If all goes according to their plan, the crew should dock to the Space Station at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday. 

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