Crew-3 Lifts Off to the International Space Station

Space Coast, FL – Yesterday, at 2103 EST (0203 UTC Today) NASA and SpaceX sent four astronauts to the International Space Station. The four crew members are NASA astronauts – Raja Chari (mission Commander), Tom Marshburn (Pilot), and Kayla Barron (Mission Specialist) – as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, who also serves as a mission specialist.

Crew-3 and Falcon 9 at LC-39A awaiting lift off
Crew-3 and Falcon 9 at LC-39A awaiting lift off | Photo: Jon Van Horne

Science and Research with Crew-3

Aboard Dragon with the crew will be more than 400 pounds of supplies and hardware, including over 150 pounds of which they will use to conduct experiments aboard the space station. Here is some of the research riding with them into low-Earth orbit.

Better space diets
Spaceflight affects human bodies in numerous ways, including how the immune system functions. The Food Physiology investigation documents if the effects of dietary improvements will also improve immune function and the gut microbiome and if those improvements can help crews better adapt to spaceflight. An enhanced understanding of food’s effects on physiology in microgravity can help scientists continue to improve the spaceflight diet and crew health.

Resupply hardware for the Food Physiology study launches on the Crew Dragon spacecraft along with the Crew-3 astronauts. Once in orbit, the astronauts will collect biological samples to provide data to the scientists back on the ground for continued study of how dietary changes affect living in microgravity.

Falcon 9 lifts off with Crew Dragon Endurance and the Crew 3 members
Falcon 9 lifts off with Crew Dragon Endurance and the Crew 3 members | Photo: Jon Van Horne

Crystal clear
Uniform Protein Crystal Growth (UPCG) aims to leverage a quick turnaround and microgravity to grow a batch of near perfect nanocrystals of riboswitch RNA, which is responsible for switching individual genes on and off. Once returned aboard a different Crew Dragon spacecraft, researchers plan to quickly analyze these nanocrystals using the X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL), a powerful atomic imaging technology that allows users to create a movie of the structural changes taking place during a critical process that lasts only milliseconds. This process has not been observed due to the inability to grow large enough crystals on the ground. Findings could help researchers better understand the process of gene switching as well as advance the XFEL technology itself, which has potential applications in biotechnology and medicine.

Remote camera captures the 9 merlin engines powering the Falcon 9
Remote camera captures the 9 merlin engines powering the Falcon 9 | Photo: Crystal Gabriel

ISS Docking

The Crew Dragon Endurance will dock, autonomously, to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module around 1910 EST Thursday, Nov. 11. Chari, Marshburn, Barron, and Maurer will join the Expedition 66 crew of NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. Crew-3 is the second commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut.

The Crew-3 astronauts will spend approximately six months aboard the space station conducting 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 to benefit life on Earth.

We look forward to following the Crew-3 mission and wish them the best of luck in their research while at the ISS.

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