Crew Dragon Endeavour: Astronauts give tour of craft

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With a flash of light and thunderous roar from its nine Merlin engines, a solitary Falcon 9 rocket launched the four astronauts into orbit earlier today. The SpaceX rocket blasted off from the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10.49am BST (5.49am EDT). The rocket propelled the Crew Dragon Endeavour and its crew onto a 24-hour journey around the globe that will conclude tomorrow with a rendezvous and docking with the ISS.

Aboard the SpaceX capsule are veteran NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, both of whom have been to space once before.

They are joined by Frenchman Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Together, the astronauts form the backbone of ISS Expedition 65, which will spend the next sixth months in the microgravity environment of the orbital laboratory.

Even more incredibly, they launched to the ISS today aboard a spacecraft that has already been to space twice before – once during the Demo-1 test flight in March 2019 and the follow-up Demo-2 flight in November 2019.

Today’s flight also bears a touching link to the Demo-2 mission, as Dr McArthur is married to fellow astronaut Bob Behnken, who flew on the test flight last year.

Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator said: “It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May.

“This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of scientific research on board the space station.

“It will be an exciting moment to see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the Commercial Crew Program.”

How long before the Crew-2 mission reaches the ISS?

The astronauts launched from Florida at 10.49am BST (5.49am EDT) and it will take the Dragon spacecraft about 24 hours to reach the ISS.

During this time, the crew will complete multiple laps around the planet, slowly raising their orbit until they intercept the ISS.

The orbital laboratory races around the planet at speeds of about five miles per second, and at an altitude of about 250 miles (402km).

If all goes according to plan, the Crew Dragon Endeavour will dock with the ISS by 10.10am BST (5.10am EDT) on Saturday, April 24.

Just a few hours into the flight, the Crew-2 astronauts checked in with the world during a live broadcast straight from their spacecraft.

At the time, the spacecraft was approaching the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

Mr Kimbrough said: “Were a couple of hours into the flight, making our second lap around the Earth.

“Right now we’re over, kind of, eastern-south Africa, so it’s really great looking out our window and we get to see some pretty cool stuff up here.

“We had an incredible launch. Hopefully, you got to watch it this morning. Right as the Sun was rising we took off.”

Mr Pesquet, who gave a brief tour of the SpaceX capsule, then took control of the camera and pointed it through Endeavour’s window and onto the world below.

And though a blanket of clouds obscured the African island, the view was still breathtaking.

The astronaut said: “This is what we get to see, coming up on Madagascar, but it’s cloudy.

“I don’t think you got a good view but we’ll try to get pictures.”

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