Four astronauts were recently launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida as part of the collaboration between NASA and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program.
- The mission is called Crew-2 and is the second crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with international partners.
- Out of the four astronauts, two are from NASA and two are from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
- Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from NASA will serve as the mission’s spacecraft commander and pilot, while Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet will serve as mission specialists to the space station for a six-month science mission.
- Earlier, in May 2020, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS carrying astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
- The aim of this test flight was to see if SpaceX capsules could be used on a regular basis to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
- Demo-2 was followed by the Crew-1 mission in November, which was the first of six crewed missions between NASA and SpaceX marking the beginning of a new era for space travel.
- Now, Crew-2 astronauts will join the members of Expedition 65. They will stay aboard the ISS for six months during which time they will conduct science experiments in low-Earth orbit.
- Their central focus during this time will be to continue a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies.
What are Tissue Chips?
- Tissue Chips are small models of human organs that contain multiple cell types that behave similarly to the human body. According to NASA, these chips can potentially speed up the process of identifying safe and effective drugs and vaccines.
About Commercial Crew Program:
- Development of the Commercial Crew Program began in the second round of the Commercial Crew Development program, which was rescoped from a technology development program for human spaceflight to a competitive development program that would produce the spacecraft to be used in the Commercial Crew Program.
- The main goal of this program is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
- Through this program, NASA plans to lower its costs by sharing them with commercial partners such as Boeing and SpaceX, and also give the companies incentive to design and build the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS).
- Secondly, by encouraging private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to provide crew transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can focus on building spacecraft and rockets meant for deep space exploration missions.