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Latest SpaceX astronauts in orbit makes it 600 people to reach space in 60 years

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Astronauts, from left, Tom Marshburn, Matthias Maurer, of Germany, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron wave as they leave  for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A Wednesday, November 10, 2021.
Astronauts, from left, Tom Marshburn, Matthias Maurer, of Germany, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron wave as they leave for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A Wednesday, November 10, 2021.   -   Copyright  John Raoux/AP
By Julie Gaubert  with AP

A SpaceX rocket launched four astronauts into orbit on Wednesday night, including the 600th person to reach space in 60 years.

The honour of being the 600th fell to European Space Agency’s (ESA) Matthias Maurer, according to NASA.

He and his three crewmates are due to arrive at the space station in less than 24 hours, more than a week later than originally planned.

One of the astronauts was sidelined last week due to a medical problem. NASA hasn’t said which astronaut it was or the nature of the health issue.

The crewman has made a full recovery, the agency said.

Officials would not disclose whether it was an illness or injury, but said it was not COVID-19.

The flight took place just two days after SpaceX brought four more astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS) back to Earth.

Who are the members of the SpaceX Crew-3 Mission?

Matthias Maurer, 51, left his research job at a medical company and joined the space agency as an engineer, and made the astronaut cut in 2015, according to AP.

He was joined by 61-year-old Dr Thomas Marshburn, Navy lieutenant commander Kayla Barron, 34, and Air Force colonel Raja Charri, 44.

Marshburn will be the oldest person to live aboard the space station and perform a spacewalk. This is his third trip to the space station.

“I think in a very few years, we will see an exponential rise of that one because now we’re entering the era of commercial spaceflight,” Maurer said.

John Raoux/AP
From left, European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer of Germany, and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla BarronJohn Raoux/AP

The crew launch marked SpaceX’s fourth for NASA and the company’s fifth passenger flight overall — including a September charter flight for four that skipped the space station.

According to AP, the Dragon capsule’s toilet leaked during their three days in orbit, necessitating a quick redesign of the flushing system in the newest capsule, named Endurance by its crew.

600 space travellers later

The list of 600 astronauts ranges from those who have spent only a few moments in space - such as Star Trek actor William Shatner last month - to American and Russian astronauts who have spent a year or more in orbit.

The increase in the number of space tourists this year has contributed to this figure.

The figure averages out to 10 people per year since Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight in 1961, Maurer noted.

Many of those who have ventured into space have become household names. As the first man to ever go into space, no list of famous astronauts would be complete without Gagarin.

On April 12, 1961, Gagarin was launched aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and thus became the first man to go into space.

AP Photo/File
In this undated file photo, Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, first man to orbit the earth, is shown in his space suit.AP Photo/File

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to go into space. Her shuttle took off on 21 May 1959 when she was only 26 years old, making her the youngest woman in space to date.

Her story has been overshadowed somewhat, with history choosing to remembering Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to go into space as part of the STS-7 mission in 1983.

ITAR-TASS/AP
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, in this photo dated June 16, 1963, after becoming the first woman to make a flight into space, a three-day flight aboard Vostok 6.ITAR-TASS/AP

Mae Jemison made NASA history as the first black woman in space. She was selected to join the NASA programme in 1987. She participated in the first flight after the failure of the Challenger mission.

NASA/AP
Mae C. Jemison, a 32-year-old physician, is the first black female astronaut named for a space shuttle mission.NASA/AP

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield offered one of the ISS’ most iconic moments. In May 2013, 400 km above the Earth, guitar in hand or in zero gravity, he chose an appropriate song to celebrate his departure from station.

Covering David Bowie's iconic hit Space Oddity, the Canadian commander wanted to mark the end of a five-month adventure before returning to Earth.

Sergei Remizov/AP
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gestures after the Russian Soyuz space capsule landed some 150 kilometers southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, May 2013.Sergei Remizov/AP

Last but not least, Frenchman Thomas Pesquet became the youngest astronaut in the history of the ESA at the age of 39 after seven years of technical and physical training.

Dmitri Lovetsky/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, a member of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS) prior to the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.Dmitri Lovetsky/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The tenth Frenchman to go into space, Pesquet has conducted 60 scientific experiments, including the mission #RaiseYourBlob, and carried out two spacewalks to maintain the laboratory in orbit.

He just returned safe and sound to Earth last Tuesday.

As an honourable mention, let’s not forget about Laika, the pioneering space dog aboard the satellite Sputnik 2 in 1957. She rode a rocket into Earth orbit with one meal and only a seven-day oxygen supply.

TASS/AFP
Picture from the Soviet daily Pravda dated 13 November 1957 of the dog Laika, the first dog ever sent in space, onboard Sputnik II.TASS/AFP

Laika was not the first animal in space, however. That distinction goes to some fruit flies that the United States launched on a suborbital mission in February 1947.