Cape Canaveral (DPA) – German astronaut Matthias Maurer can now leave for the International Space Station ISS as early as Thursday morning (Wednesday local time).
First, a crew of four astronauts should be brought back to Earth from the ISS over the weekend, US space agency NASA announced. According to this, the earliest possible start date for Maurer and his three NASA colleagues is Thursday at 3:03 a.m. German time (9:03 p.m. local time). This will allow them to reach the ISS on Friday at 1:10 pm CET.
For the first time in three years, a German astronaut has accompanied Maurer into space. Along with NASA colleagues Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, she is scheduled to fly to the ISS space station from Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. The four astronauts are to be carried by a “Crew Dragon” from Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX.
With the flight, Maurer will be the twelfth German in space, the fourth on the ISS, and the first to fly in a “Crew Dragon”. On the ISS, European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts will conduct several experiments at an altitude of about 400 kilometers for about six months and possibly complete an external mission. The last time a German ESA astronaut was Alexander Gerst in space was in 2018.
The 51-year-old Saarland native’s start, originally planned for the last weekend in October, had already been postponed several times – due to bad weather and a “minor medical problem” of a crew member. The medical problem will continue to be seen, NASA recently announced. Hopefully it will be fixed again before the planned start. There was no further information on this.
Recently, Monday was mentioned as the earliest possible start date. For this date, however, there were concerns about the weather. The main concern was strong winds at Cape Canaveral and inclement weather conditions in the forward course of the flight.
NASA has now prioritized the return of the so-called “Crew-2”. These are French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who have been on the ISS since April – Friday was exactly 196 days. Since the “Crew Dragon”, with which “Crew-2” is currently aboard the ISS, could officially last only 210 days in space, the return of the four astronauts with each passing day became more urgent.
“Crew-2” now – with about 250 kilograms of scientific experiments in its luggage – should undock from the ISS as early as Monday, then fly around the space station to take pictures for possible repairs, and fly to Florida Should reach the sea by Tuesday. The undocking was originally planned for Sunday, but was postponed until Monday due to inclement weather conditions.
A handover between “Crew-2” and “Crew-3” on board the ISS was actually planned. It is now failing, NASA astronaut Kimbrough told a news conference from space on Friday. The task will now be handled by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hey, who arrived at the ISS in April with cosmonauts Oleg Nowiczky and Pyotr Dubro. French cosmonaut Pesquet told a news conference that he was not nervous before the return flight.
The “Crew Dragon” with which “Crew-2” is in the ISS, however, has one problem: the toilet is broken. So the four astronauts would have to go back to Earth wearing a type of diaper. It’s definitely “sub-optimal,” astronaut MacArthur said. “But there are many small challenges in space travel and we are ready to get them under control.”
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