Science & Technology
Recent ISS Crew Dragon Mission
By Elyas Layachi
Volume 1 Issue 8
June 8, 2021
Image provided by NASA
The Commercial Crew Program is a program created by NASA helping to facilitate the development of U.S. commercial crew space transportation capabilities. The program’s main goal, like the Flight Opportunities program, is to achieve safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Through this program, NASA now tasks private companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, to transport both astronauts and cargo to the ISS, allowing NASA to focus their resources on developing the technologies necessary for larger missions such as a lunar return.
The Commercial Crew Program works specifically with Boeing and SpaceX, who developed the Crew Dragon and Starliner. The first official flight under this program took place on November 16th, 2020, with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. This mission, also known as the Crew-1 mission, had a goal of both transporting astronauts to the ISS and proving that private companies are viable and safe sources of space transportation. This was the first mission in history in which a third-party manufacturer created a crewed vehicle used in a space mission. The Crew-1 mission transported four astronauts (Shannon Walker, Victor J. Glover, Michael S. Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi) along with their scientific material and other resources to the ISS. They returned safely to Earth after a 6-month mission aboard the ISS and splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:56 A.M. on May 2nd, 2021.
Crew-2 Mission Overview
The Crew-2 mission is the second of six missions under the Commercial Crew Program, launching just over a week before the Crew-1 mission had returned. The astronauts were launched using SpaceX’s second crew capsule, the Crew Dragon Endeavor, and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. According to NASA, this mission has several firsts, including being the:
First commercial crew mission to fly two international partners.
First commercial crew handover between astronauts on the space station as Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronauts will spend about five days together on station before Crew-1 returns to Earth.
First reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission.
First time two commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to the I.S.S. at the same time.
Not only does this mission have the purpose of proving the viability of the Crew Dragon and SpaceX’s technology, but it has scientific purposes as well. The astronauts will continue the scientific research of the Crew-1 astronauts, which included important investigations and technological demonstrations that prepare for future Artemis missions to the Moon. Additionally, the crew will perform over 200 experiments, including medical research and studies of Earth’s own climate. Some experiments will even help scientists on Earth combat disease, while also helping space agencies around the world better understand how space affects the human body so they can better prepare astronauts for future, long-duration space travel to the moon.
Meet the Astronauts
The Crew-2 mission’s crew is described as an “international crew” since its astronauts have diverse backgrounds. The astronauts are from the United States, Japan, and France. Each have different educational and experience backgrounds, making the crew even more diverse. Below is a description of each of the astronauts and their backgrounds:
Shane Kimbrough, also known as Robert Shane Kimbrough, is a retired United States army officer and NASA astronaut. He was part of the first group of candidates selected for NASA astronaut training following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Born: June 4, 1967 (age 53 years), Killeen, Texas.
Space missions: SpaceX Crew-2, Expedition 65, Expedition 50, Expedition 49, Soyuz MS-02, STS-126, STS-400.
Spouse: Robbie Lynn Nickels
Total EVAs: 6
Rank: Colonel, retired, USA.
Siblings: Michael Scott Kimbrough
K. Megan McArthur
Kathrine Megan McArthur is an American oceanographer, engineer, and a NASA astronaut. She has served as a Capsule Communicator for both the space shuttle and space station.
Born: August 30, 1971 (age 49 years), Honolulu, Hawaii.
Space missions: SpaceX Crew-2, Expedition 65, STS-125, STS-400.
Spouse: Bob Behnken
Education: University of California, Los Angeles.
Children: Theodore Behnken
Parents: Don McArthur, Kit McArthur
Akihiko Hoshide is a Japanese engineer, JAXA astronaut, and current Commander of the International Space Station. On August 30, 2012, Hoshide became the third Japanese astronaut to walk in space.
Born: December 28, 1968 (age 52 years), Setagaya City, Tokyo, Japan.
Space Missions: SpaceX Crew-2, Expedition 65, Expedition 32, STS-124, Expedition 33, Soyuz TMA-05M.
Total EVAs: 3
Education: United World College of South East Asia
Thomas Gautier Pesquet is a French aerospace engineer, pilot, and European Space Agency astronaut Pesquet was selected by the ESA as a candidate in May 2009, and he successfully completed his basic training in November 2010.
Born: February 27, 1978 (age 43 years), Rouen, France.
Space Missions: SpaceX Crew-2, Expedition 65, Expedition 50, Soyuz MS-03, Expedition 51.
Spouse: Anne Mottet
Selection: 2009 ESA Group
Total EVAs: 2.
Education: Institut Superieur De L’aeronautique Et De L’espace.
What does this mission mean for the future?
This mission is only the second of six crewed missions facilitated by the Commercial Crew Program using SpaceX’s transportation modules. If all these missions, including Crew-2, are successful, they will prove that companies can viably use their technology to transport humans to space. Furthermore, the success of these missions increases the application of commercial technology to be used to transport normal people into space, for tours and sight-seeing. Additionally, the experiments the crew will perform on board will help scientists further understand and learn about the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity and intense radiation on the body. Such findings will prepare NASA and SpaceX to send astronauts back to the moon, and later to Mars.
Want to see how much you learned about the Crew-2 mission from this article? Take the quiz by clicking the link below! Good luck!