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NASA astronauts, Russian cosmonaut embark on journey to International Space Station

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Three NASA astronauts and a cosmonaut embarked on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS), marking the first of two launches by NASA and the Russian space agency. The purpose of these launches is to replace five of the lab’s seven crew members and deliver a fresh Soyuz ferry ship for two cosmonauts midway through a yearlong flight.

The crew, comprising Commander Matthew Dominick, co-pilot Michael Barratt, Jeanette Epps, and cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, successfully lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 10:53 p.m. EST. This launch came after scrubs on Friday and Saturday due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Following liftoff, the Falcon 9’s reusable first stage achieved a pinpoint landing at the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying the astronauts, autonomously set course for rendezvous and docking with the space station early Tuesday.

Expressing exhilaration upon reaching space, Commander Dominick commended SpaceX for their role in ensuring a safe journey. Co-pilot Barratt likened the experience to a roller coaster ride with enthusiastic teenagers, expressing gratitude to NASA and SpaceX for the opportunity.

Despite initial delays due to adverse weather, the launch proceeded smoothly. However, during the final countdown, engineers identified a small crack in a seal around the Crew Dragon’s side hatch. After analysis, it was deemed non-threatening, and the launch proceeded as planned.

This mission marks NASA’s ninth Crew Dragon flight to the ISS since 2011, when the agency began collaborating with SpaceX for crew transportation. Looking ahead, NASA aims to diversify its transportation options with the upcoming launch of Boeing’s Starliner ferry ship.

Upon arrival at the ISS, the Crew 8 members will join their predecessors to exchange insights into station operations before Crew 7’s scheduled return to Earth on March 11. This mission underscores the international collaboration and commitment to advancing space exploration.

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