Everything is ready for Space X’s Crew Dragon 2 mission, the second factor in NASA’s Crew Commercial program with astronauts on board. Falcon 9 is already on the launch pad of Cape Canaveral in Florida (USA) to bring the four astronauts into orbit around the International Space Station, among them the European astronaut also flies for the first time in this program. Thomas Pescet is of French nationality. On board the shuttle with Pesquet are Americans from NASA Shane Kimbro, Megan MacArthur and Japanese Akihiko Hoshide. The launch is scheduled for Thursday, April 22 at 06.11 local time, while in Italy it will be at 12.11.
During today’s pre-launch conference, mission managers at NASA and Space X confirmed they’re ready. “We’re starting the launch,” said Steve Stitch, commercial crew program manager at the Kennedy Space Center. “The launch date on Thursday and Friday looks good” even if there is “concern” about the heavy winds on the slope. “Friday looks better than Thursday, but we will continue to watch. Tomorrow we have another briefing and we will decide when is the right time to make a decision,” Stitch said in his remarks reported by NASA.
The Space X Crew 2 mission will last for six months on the International Space Station. For the Elon Musk shuttle, this is the second launch, and the mission sees French Pesquet take on the role of ISS captain, the second European to take on the prestigious role after Italian Luca Parmitano. Frank de Winn, head of the European Center for Astronauts and the International Space Station program of the European Space Agency, confirmed that this launch “will only be the beginning of other missions that will see a European astronaut leave the Kennedy Space Center.” When Pesquet is on board the International Space Station in the role of commander, European Matthias Maurer will also land on the station, after which it will be the role of Italian Samantha Cristoforetti.