SpaceX and NASA launched their Crew-3 mission, SpaceX's fifth overall crewed space mission, sending the 600th human up to space in 60 years, a report from Space.com explains.
The Crew-3 mission launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 9:03 pm EST from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, starting a 22-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX's fifth crewed mission lights 'a big candle'
Prior to launch, NASA tweeted that "NASA and SpaceX are lighting a big candle tonight," in reference to the birthday of one of its astronauts who has previously stayed aboard the ISS, where the Crew-3 Dragon Capsule carrying the four Crew-3 astronauts is currently headed.
The Crew-3 astronauts include NASA's Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as the European Space Agency's Matthias Maurer. German astronaut Maurer will go down as the 600th person in history to reach space due to his mission assignment, NASA said. The crew is currently undergoing a roughly 22-hour flight and they will reach the ISS at approximately 7:10 pm EST.
The Crew-3 launch was delayed several times due to adverse weather conditions, as well as an unspecified injury to one of the Crew-3 astronauts prior to launch. The launch occurred only two days after the Crew-2 astronauts splashed down on their return from the ISS, having been treated to a wonderful view of the aurora borealis on the way back to Earth.
Space tourism helps humanity reach its 600th spaceflight
The list of people to reach space includes recent additions such as William Shatner and Jeff Bezos who traveled to space aboard space tourism expeditions — though the FAA just announced that they are not officially deemed to be astronauts. Maurer is the 600th person to reach space in 60 years since human spaceflight began with the first-ever cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
The cadence of human launches will only continue to increase with space tourism and SpaceX launches heating up in the coming months and years. In a tweet shortly after the Crew-3 launch, NASA said "tonight's liftoff marks the fastest turnaround in human spaceflight history," as the new mission launched only two days after the space agency's Crew-2 astronauts returned to Earth.
SpaceX has now carried out five crewed launches in total, including its first launch, Demo-2, on May 30, 2020, the first crewed launch from U.S. soil in nine years following the end of NASA's Space Shuttle program. The firm has now also carried out three fully operational launches for NASA, as well as an all-civilian space tourism launch called Inspiration4 that orbited Earth for four days in September.
The latest launch, Crew-3, sends Air Force Col Raja Chari the first space rookie in decades to lead a mission to the ISS for NASA, as well as Dr. Thomas Marshburn, who at 61 years of age is the oldest living person to stay aboard the space station and perform a spacewalk. The crew, which also includes Kayla Barron, a Navy lieutenant commander from Washington, will spend six months aboard the ISS before returning to Earth.