NASA and SpaceX are targeting 4:49 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, Nov. 14, for the launch of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will launch the agency’s astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Mission managers are keeping a close watch on Tropical Storm Eta, which hit the western side of Florida on Thursday, but NASA officials say there’s a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions for the Saturday evening launch. If there’s a delay, there is a backup launch window at 4:27 p.m. California time Sunday.
Crew-1 astronauts will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineers Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. The arrival of Crew-1 will increase the regular crew size of the space station’s expedition missions from six to seven astronauts, adding to the amount of crew time available for research.
Crew-1 will stay on the ISS for approximately six months. The mission follows the first crewed test flight to the ISS by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle. Two U.S. astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, returned from the ISS in August aboard the capsule after a two-month mission.
Noguchi said Tuesday that he hopes his mission will inspire dreams for a “new future” amid difficult times brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Space flight itself is (marked with) a history of challenges. I hope it leads to the discovery of new possibilities and developments,” he said during a virtual press conference organized by JAXA.
Admitting he was both nervous and excited about the upcoming launch, the 55-year-old said, “There are risks and a fear of failure when challenging oneself, but I believe the benefits far outweigh that fear.”
He juxtaposed the mission with the Japanese hit manga and anime series “Demon Slayer,” in which astronauts use and maximize their “individual strengths” toward a “common goal.” The series follows the story of a boy who, along with his comrades, fights human-eating demons after his family is killed by them.
Noguchi spoke with humor and spirit about his age in an online conversation with Japan’s science and technology minister last month.
“My physical and cognitive abilities will be challenged but … I want to hang in there to keep up with the younger generation,” he told minister Koichi Hagiuda from his home in Houston.
“Let’s show how determined middle-aged people are,” responded Hagiuda, 57, laughing.
Noguchi previously got aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 2005 and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a 161-day stay on the ISS from 2009 to 2010.
Hagiuda said Noguchi’s boarding of the commercial spacecraft is “evidence of Japanese astronauts’ active participation and achievements to this day.”
Noguchi will become the first non-American to fly on a mission launched by Hawthorne-based SpaceX, the first private company to successfully launch humans into orbit.
For more information about the mission, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew
— Kyodo News contributed to this story.