Four new astronauts blast off to International Space Station

Four astronauts wave to the media as they leave the Operations and Checkout building for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A, Sunday, March 3, 2024
Four astronauts wave to the media as they leave the Operations and Checkout building for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A, Sunday, March 3, 2024 Copyright Associated Press
Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with AP
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Three Americans and one Russian astronaut have flown to the International Space Station for a six-month stint.


Four astronauts headed to the International Space Station on Sunday where they will oversee the arrivals of two new rocketships during their half-year stay.

SpaceX’s Falcon rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Centre, carrying NASA’s Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps and Russia’s Alexander Grebenkin.

The astronauts should reach the orbiting lab on Tuesday. They will replace a crew from the US, Denmark, Japan and Russia, who have been there since August.

“When are you getting here already?” space station commander Andreas Mogensen asked via X, formerly Twitter, after three days of delay due to high wind. 

SpaceX Launch Control said they were being “fashionably late.”

There was almost another postponement on Sunday night. A small crack in the seal of the SpaceX capsule's hatch prompted a last-minute flurry of reviews, but it was deemed safe for the whole mission.

The new crew's six-month stay includes the arrival of two rocketships ordered by NASA. 

Boeing’s new Starliner capsule with test pilots is due in late April. Around a month later, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser, a mini-shuttle, should arrive. It is for delivering cargo to the station, but not passengers yet.

NASA astronaut Epps was originally assigned to fly Boeing’s Starliner, which got bogged down with problems and stalled. She was switched over to SpaceX.

Epps, who is from New York, is the second Black woman assigned to a long station mission. 

She said before the flight that she is especially proud to be a role model for Black girls, demonstrating that spaceflight “is an option for them, that this is not just for other people.”

Also new to space are Dominick, a Navy pilot, and Grebenkin, a former Russian military officer.

Barratt, a doctor on his third mission, is the oldest full-time astronaut to fly in space. He turns 65 in April.

Flight controllers are monitoring a growing cabin leak on Russia’s side of the space station. The leak has doubled in size in the past few weeks and the area has been sealed off, NASA program manager Joel Montalbano said. 

He stressed there is no impact on station operations or crew safety.

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