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Crew-4 mission to the ISS

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• April 27, 2022: Four American and European astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station after their launch on a Crew Dragon spacecraft April 27, less than two days after another spacecraft returned from the station. 1) 2)

- A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 3:52 a.m. EDT (07:52 UTC), placing the Crew Dragon spacecraft Freedom into orbit 12 minutes later. The rocket's first stage, which launched three previous missions including Crew-3, landed on a droneship in the Atlantic.

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Figure 1: A Falcon 9 lifts off April 27 on the Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

- The Crew-4 mission is commanded by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren with Bob Hines as pilot. NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti are mission specialists. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 8:15 p.m. EDT (00:15 UTC on 28 April), a little more than 16 hours after liftoff.

- Freedom will use the same ISS docking port that was occupied just a few days earlier by another Crew Dragon spacecraft, Endeavour, that spent more than two weeks at the station for the Ax-1 private astronaut mission. The spacecraft undocked April 24 and splashed down off the Florida coast April 25, less than 39 hours before the Crew-4 liftoff.

- Both NASA and SpaceX officials said the short turnaround between the Ax-1 splashdown and Crew-4 launch was not an issue. "Engineers have been pouring over the data over the last 18 hours," Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager, said at a prelaunch briefing April 26 of reviews from the return of the Ax-1 mission. "It's been a clean flight overall. No major issues."

- NASA and Roscosmos also worked to squeeze in the arrival of Crew-4 around a spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev, scheduled for April 28. Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager, said at the prelaunch briefing that the traditional welcome ceremony for the Crew-4 astronauts will take place several hours after their arrival because the Russian cosmonauts will be asleep at the time of docking to stay on schedule for their spacewalk.

- NASA is planning a five-day handover between the new Crew-4 astronauts and the departing Crew-3 astronauts, who have been on the station since November 2021. Those four astronauts — NASA's Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and ESA's Matthias Maurer — will depart in early May on the Crew Dragon spacecraft Endurance.

- The Crew-4 astronauts will remain on the station until September. The Crew-5 mission, set to use the same spacecraft, Endurance, as Crew-3, will launch that month, with Crew-4 expected to return by mid-September, shortly before the launch of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. Crew-5 and Soyuz MS-22 may feature a seat exchange between an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut, if an agreement is completed by June.

- A hectic schedule will continue after Crew-4's arrival with a second uncrewed test flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle, scheduled for May 19. A SpaceX cargo Dragon mission to the station will follow in June. Those missions may have to work around new attempts to perform a wet dress rehearsal of the Space Launch System.

- "Spaceflight tends to be a magnet of dynamic activities," Montalbano said at the prelaunch briefing. "They all tend to draw together."

 

- Upon their arrival at the space station, the Crew-4 astronauts will be greeted by NASA astronauts of the Expedition 67 crew already on board. During their six-month stay aboard the microgravity laboratory, Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will join the Expedition 67 crew in conducting a number of science and research investigations. 3)

- The Crew-4 astronauts will conduct 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 benefit life on Earth. Experiments will include studies on the aging of immune systems, organic material concrete alternatives, and cardiorespiratory effects during and after long-duration exposure to microgravity. These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during their mission.

- Launching alongside the crew in the Dragon capsule is an investigation that seeks to restore meaningful vision to people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. The Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing experiment tests the manufacturing of artificial retinas or retinal implants in microgravity, where it is expected their production could be optimized.

- Also traveling to space aboard the Crew Dragon are Smart-Tex shirts as part of the German Space Agency (DLR) investigation called Wireless Compose-2. The shirts are fitted with sensors, wiring, and a communications module to wirelessly transmit data to a base station. The shirt is designed to monitor cardiovascular activity like relative blood pressure and can provide details about heart contraction rate and valve opening and closing times – something normally accessible only through sonography or CT scans. These kinds of wearable technologies could be used to monitor health throughout a long-duration space exploration mission and could lead to a more flexible implementation of this technology in health monitoring equipment on Earth.

• April 25, 2022: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is all smiles after arriving at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, last week with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins. 4)

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Figure 2: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is all smiles after arriving at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, last week with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins (image credit: ESA, S. Corvaja)

- Collectively known as Crew-4, the astronauts flew in from Houston, Texas, USA, and are spending the days ahead in quarantine before being launched this week to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom.

- "This is getting real," said Samantha. "It's very emotional for me, that this final stretch to the launchpad has started with the landing here, on this runway." Samantha recalled her childhood fascination watching the Space Shuttle launches in the 1980s and her reality now: "I am landing on the Space Shuttle landing facility!"

- This is the second long-duration space mission for Samantha who first flew to the orbital outpost in 2014 for her Italian Space Agency ASI-sponsored mission Futura. This year's ESA space mission, known as Minerva, will officially begin once she reaches the Station.

- Samantha will be welcomed to the Space Station by fellow ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and enjoy a short handover in orbit before Matthias returns to Earth as part of Crew-3. - Throughout her mission, Samantha will hold the role of US Orbital Segment (USOS) lead, taking responsibility for all operations within the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station. She will support around 35 European and many more international experiments in orbit.

- Samantha has the honour of many ‘firsts' in her spaceflight career. She was the first astronaut to brew a cup of coffee in space.

- Her 2014 Futura mission held the record for the longest European space mission, at 199 days, until Thomas Pesquet's mission Alpha in 2020.

- For mission Minerva, Samantha continues to trailblaze by being the first ever astronaut on social media platform TikTok, bringing space content and European research to a wider audience.

• April 20, 2022: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with Crew Dragon atop, rolled out to the launch pad on April 19, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for NASA's Crew-4 launch. The rocket is now in a vertical position at Kennedy's Launch Pad 39A and underwent a successful dry dress rehearsal in the early morning hours of April 20 with the launch team and crewmembers. 5)

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Figure 3: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen at sunrise on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Crew-4 mission, Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 mission is the fourth crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program (photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

- The mission will carry NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, to the International Space Station for their planned science mission. This is the first spaceflight for Hines and Watkins and the second flight for Lindgren and Cristoforetti.

- Upon their arrival, the Crew-4 astronauts will have a short overlap with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, who flew to the station as part of the agency's SpaceX Crew-3 mission in November 2021. Also on board are Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov who flew to the station on a Soyuz spacecraft on March 18, 2022, Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov.

- The mission will fly a new Crew Dragon, which crew members have named Freedom. Mission Commander Lindgren tweeted the significance of the name: "The name celebrates a fundamental human right, and the industry and innovation that emanate from the unencumbered human spirit." The spacecraft's name also recalls Freedom 7, the spacecraft that carried Alan Shepard as the first American launched into space on May 5, 1961 aboard NASA's Mercury-Redstone 3.

• April 8, 2022: Currently in quarantine in the USA ahead of her launch to the International Space Station, Samantha will be joined virtually by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker, Italy's Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition Vittorio Colao and President of the Italian Space Agency ASI Giorgio Saccoccia to talk about her second space mission, Minerva. 6)

- Samantha first flew to the International Space Station in 2014, where she spent almost 200 days living and working in orbit for an Italian Space Agency ASI-sponsored mission known as Futura.

- Minerva will see her travel to the Station alongside NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

- These astronauts are collectively known as Crew-4 and their spacecraft is called Freedom.

- The targeted launch date for Crew-4 is no earlier than 21 April, with a backup date of 23 April.

- Once on Station, Samantha will be USOS Lead, responsible for all activities within the US Orbital Segment for the duration of her mission. This segment includes the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station.

- She will also support numerous European and international experiments in orbit and is expected to have a short handover with ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer who is currently aboard the orbital outpost for his mission, Cosmic Kiss.

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Figure 4: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti poses with her Minerva mission patch ahead of her second mission to the International Space Station. Samantha will fly to the Station as a member of NASA/SpaceX Crew-4 in April 2022. She will be the third European to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft (image credit: ESA, A. Congli)

• March 18, 2022: Axiom Space and SpaceX are adjusting the launch date for the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) to the International Space Station to allow teams to complete final spacecraft processing ahead of the mission. The Ax-1 crew will fly on Dragon Endeavour to and from the space station. After 10 days in orbit, the Ax-1 crew will splash down off the coast of Florida. 7)

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Figure 5: Shown is the official crew portrait of SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts and insignia, representing NASA's Commercial Crew Program. From left are Pilot Robert Hines, Mission specialists Samantha Cristoforetti and Jessica Watkins, and Commander Kjell Lindgren. Hines, Watkins, and Lindgren are NASA astronauts; Cristoforetti is an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut (image credit: NASA)

- NASA and SpaceX also will adjust the target launch date for the agency's SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station to allow appropriate spacing for operations and post-flight data reviews between human spaceflight missions and to allow for multiple consecutive launch attempts based on the orbital mechanics for arrival to the space station. The current no earlier than launch date is Tuesday, April 19, pending completion of program reviews expected early next week to formalize the new target.

- Crew-4 will carry an international crew of four astronauts to the orbital complex on a new Dragon spacecraft and flight proven Falcon 9 rocket for a science expedition mission.

• February 1, 2022: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is all smiles alongside her Crew-4 mates during a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, USA. 8)

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Figure 6: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti (at right) is all smiles alongside her Crew-4 mates during a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, USA (image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

- Samantha is the next ESA astronaut to fly to space and is expected to be launched to the International Space Station in spring 2022. This is the second mission for Samantha who spent approximately 200 days in space in 2015 for her Futura mission.

- Samantha is launching with familiar faces. Fellow mission specialist Jessica Watkins was part of NASA's NEEMO 23 crew, in which Samantha served as commander. The team spent 10 days living and working at the world's only undersea research station, Aquarius, located 19 m below the surface of the ocean off the coast of Florida.

- Upon hearing the announcement, Samantha tweeted her congratulations, saying: "So proud of you, Watty! After sharing the @NASA_NEEMO adventure on NEEMO23, I'm grateful to have you as a crewmate again on #Crew4. It will be fun!"

- Rounding off Crew-4 are NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren as the commander and Bob "Farmer" Hines as pilot of their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. This is Kjell's second flight and Bob's first.

- Samantha is the third European astronaut to launch on SpaceX, after Thomas Pesquet in early 2021 and current ESA astronaut-in-space Matthias Maurer in late 2021.

- Training for Samantha's second mission has included International Space Station refresher sessions at ESA's European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Roscosmos's Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Moscow.

• March 10, 2022: "Minerva" is the name of ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's second mission to the International Space Station. Inspired by the Roman goddess of wisdom, the handicrafts and the arts, this name is a homage to the competence and sophisticated craftmanship of the men and women all over the world who make human spaceflight possible. The goddess Minerva also embodies the toughness and discipline that is required of us, and the wisdom we wish to demonstrate, as we consolidate and expand human presence in space. 9)

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Figure 7: Minerva is often depicted with her sacred owl, a key feature of Samantha's mission patch. The eye of the owl is a yellow Moon, casting a white glow onto a round Earth. Its beak hints at the shape of the International Space Station, with its characteristic solar panels. The two lines also symbolise Samantha's two missions to space. Waves of ever darker blue make up the body of the owl and encourage us to rise to the challenge and move farther into deep space. The owl looks to the right, to the future of space exploration and adventure off Earth for our planet (image credit: ESA-K.Oldenburg)

• November 16, 2021: NASA has assigned astronaut Jessica Watkins to serve as a mission specialist on the agency's upcoming SpaceX Crew-4 mission, the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. 10)

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Figure 8: NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is scheduled to fly to space for the first time as part of NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 mission launching to the International Space Station (image credit: NASA, Bill Ingalls)

- This will be Watkins' first trip to space following her selection as an astronaut in 2017. Watkins joins NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, as a crew member for the Crew-4 mission.

- NASA previously announced the assignments of Lindgren and Hines as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, in February, and ESA announced Cristoforetti as a mission specialist for the mission in May.

- Crew-4 is scheduled to launch in April 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.

- Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and considers Lafayette, Colorado, her hometown. She earned a bachelor's degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Watkins conducted her graduate research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth. She began her career at NASA as an intern and has worked at the agency's Ames Research Center in California and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. At the time of her astronaut selection, Watkins was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated as a member of the Science Team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

- For more than 21 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth Orbit, advancing scientific knowledge, demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.

- Through the Commercial Crew Program and broader commercial efforts, NASA is working with private industry to develop human space transportation services and a robust low-Earth orbit economy that enables the agency to focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.

 


 

Crew-4 arrives at ISS (presented in reverse order)

• April 28, 2022: NASA astronauts Mission Commander Kjell Lindgren, Pilot Bob Hines, and Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, and Mission Specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) now are aboard the International Space Station following Crew Dragon's hatch opening about 9:15 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, April 27 (01:15 UTC on April 28). 11)

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Figure 9: Crew-4 NASA astronauts Mission Commander Kjell Lindgren, Pilot Bob Hines, and Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, and Mission Specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) were greeted by Crew-3 as they arrived to the International Space Station (image credit: NASA TV)

- Crew-4 joins Expedition 67 crew of Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, all of NASA, Matthias Maurer of ESA, and cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev of Roscosmos.

- NASA TV coverage will conclude shortly after hatch opening and return for live coverage of the welcoming ceremony at 2:40 a.m. Thursday, April 28.

- Crew-4 astronauts launched to International Space Station at 3:52 a.m. Wednesday, April 27, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The international crew of four will spend several months on the orbital complex on a science expedition mission.

• April 27, 2022: NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti arrived at the International Space Station Wednesday, April 27, as the SpaceX Dragon Freedom docked to the complex at 7:37 p.m. EDT (23:37 UTC) while the spacecraft were flying about 261 miles (420 km) above the Pacific Ocean. 12)

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Figure 10: The SpaceX Dragon Freedom capsule is seen after docking to the International Space Station while the station was orbiting 261 statute miles above the Pacific Ocean (image credit: NASA TV)

- Following Crew Dragon's link up to the Harmony module, the astronauts aboard Dragon and the space station will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening.

- Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will join the Expedition 67 crew of Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, all of NASA, Matthias Maurer of ESA, and cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev of Roscosmos. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 departs in early May.

 


1) Jeff Foust, "Falcon 9 launches Crew-4 mission to space station," SpaceNews, 27 April 2022, URL: https://spacenews.com/falcon-9-launches-crew-4-mission-to-space-station/

2) "NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Launch to International Space Station," NASA Press Release 22-037, 27 April 2022, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-spacex-crew-4-astronauts-launch-to-international-space-station

3) Jason Costa, "NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 Underway as Freedom Journeys to Station," NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 Mission, 27 April 2022, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/crew-4/2022/04/27/nasas-spacex-crew-4-underway-as-freedom-journeys-to-station/

4) "Smiling Sam," ESA Science & Exploration, 25 April 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2022/04/Smiling_Sam

5) Jason Costa, "Crew-4 Dragon Rolls to the Pad, Completes Dry Dress Rehearsal," NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 Mission, 20 April 2022, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/crew-4/2022/04/20/crew-4-dragon-rolls-to-the-pad-completes-dry-dress-rehearsal/

6) "Watch live: media Q&A with Samantha Cristoforetti," ESA Science & Applications, 8 April 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Minerva/Watch_live_media_Q_A_with_Samantha_Cristoforetti

7) Kathleen Ellis, "NASA, SpaceX Adjust Target Launch Date for Crew-4 Mission," NASA Crew-4, 18 March 2022, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/crew-4/2022/03/

8) "Looking four-ward to launch," ESA Science & Exploration, 1 February 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2022/02/Looking_four-ward_to_launch

9) "Minerva mission patch," ESA Science & Exploration, 10 March 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Minerva/Watch_live_media_Q_A_with_Samantha_Cristoforetti

10) "NASA Assigns Astronaut Jessica Watkins to NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 Mission," NASA Press Release 21-155, 16 November 2021, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-assigns-astronaut-jessica-watkins-to-nasa-s-spacex-crew-4-mission

11) Heidi Lavelle, "Crew-4 Now Aboard the Space Station," NASA Space Station, 28 April 2022, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2022/04/27/crew-4-now-aboard-the-space-station/

12) Heidi Lavelle, "The Crew-4 Astronauts Dock to the Space Station," NASA Space Station, 27 April 2022, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2022/04/27/the-crew-4-astronauts-dock-to-the-space-station/
 


The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (herb.kramer@gmx.net).

 

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