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SpaceX launches four astronauts to the International Space Station. See photos

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NASA and private rocket company SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit late on Wednesday, sending a veteran spacewalker, two younger crewmates chosen for future lunar missions and a German materials scientist to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, into orbit to begin a six-month science mission on the space station.

The mission is the first spaceflight for astronauts Chari, Barron, and Maurer, and the third for Marshburn. Marshburn is the sixth person to launch from Earth on three different spacecraft.

Photographers are silhouetted as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon attached lifts off.

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Photographers are silhouetted as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon attached lifts off. (AP)

During Crew Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft maneuvers from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“With Raja, Thomas, Kayla and Mattias on their way to the International Space Station just days after Crew-2’s return, we’re seeing the power of American ingenuity right before our eyes,” Nelson said. “NASA’s partnership with SpaceX is not only critical for cutting-edge research, but also for international collaboration. The space station brings together nations around the world for the benefit of all. Godspeed, Crew-3 – I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish.”

(L-R front) NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Raja Chari and (L-R back) European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer of Germany and NASA astronaut Kayla Barron walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

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(L-R front) NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Raja Chari and (L-R back) European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer of Germany and NASA astronaut Kayla Barron walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (AFP)

The Crew Dragon Endurance will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module around 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11. NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website are providing ongoing live coverage through docking, hatch opening, and the ceremony to welcome the crew aboard the orbital outpost.

“Ensuring our crews have safe transportation and continued access to space is an enormous responsibility,” said Steve Stich, manager with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “We know the crew is excited to get on station and settle into their long duration mission. The NASA and SpaceX team remains vigilant in support of their safe arrival and eventual return to Earth.”

Chari, Marshburn, Barron, and Maurer will join the Expedition 66 crew of NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. Crew-3 is the second commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon capsule, is launched carrying three NASA and one ESA astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon capsule, is launched carrying three NASA and one ESA astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station. (REUTERS)

“It is always thrilling to watch a rocket launch, especially when an international crew of astronauts is sitting atop it. Matthias Maurer is the second ESA astronaut to be launched in a Crew Dragon spacecraft under the U.S. Commercial Crew Program,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA director general. “We are delighted to see him fly alongside NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, continuing a long history of international collaboration in space for the benefit of Earth. On behalf of ESA, I’d like to wish all Crew-3 astronauts a productive and enjoyable mission.”

The Crew-3 astronauts will spend approximately six months aboard the space station conducting new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and to benefit life on Earth.

The Crew-3 mission continues NASA’s efforts to restore and maintain American leadership in human spaceflight. Regular, long-duration commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the station. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars, starting with the agency’s Artemis missions, which includes landing the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface.

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