First, a crew of four astronauts must be brought back to Earth from the International Space Station by the end of the week, NASA announced. According to this, the earliest possible start date for Maurer and his three colleagues at NASA is Thursday at 3:03 a.m. German time (Wednesday 9:03 p.m. local time). This will allow them to reach the International Space Station on Friday at 1:10 a.m. CET.
For the first time in three years, a German astronaut is supposed to fly into space with Maurer. It is scheduled to take off with NASA colleagues Thomas Marshbourne, Raja Shari and Kayla Barron from Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida to the International Space Station. The four astronauts will be flown by “Crew Dragon” from Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX.
With the flight, Maurer will be the 12th German in space, the fourth on the International Space Station and the first to travel there with the “Crew Dragon”. On the International Space Station, the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut will perform several experiments for a period of six months at an altitude of about 400 km, and will likely also complete an external mission. The last time a German cosmonaut reached space was Alexander Gerst in 2018.
The start-up for the 51-year-old Saarland native, which was originally scheduled for this past weekend in October, has already been postponed several times – among other things due to bad weather and a “minor medical problem” for one of the crew members. NASA had recently announced that the medical problem would continue. This is expected to be good again before the planned start. There was no more information on this.
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Recently, Monday was mentioned as the earliest possible start date. But on this date, there were concerns about the weather. The main concerns were strong winds in Cape Canaveral and bad weather on the itinerary.
NASA has now prioritized the return of the so-called “Crew 2”. These are French astronauts from the European Space Agency Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur and Japanese astronauts Akihiko Hoshied, who have been on the International Space Station since April – on Friday that was exactly 196 days. Since Crew Dragon, whose Crew-2 is currently on the International Space Station, can officially stay in space for only up to 210 days, the return of the four astronauts is becoming more urgent with each passing day.
Crew-2 – with about 250kg of science experiments in its luggage – should now disembark from the International Space Station as soon as Monday, then fly around the space station to take pictures for potential repairs, and reach the sea off Florida on Tuesday. The docking was originally scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed to Monday at short notice due to bad weather.
A delivery between Crew-2 and Crew-3 aboard the International Space Station has already been planned. That has now failed, NASA astronaut Kimbrough said at a press conference from space on Friday. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hay, who came to the International Space Station in April with cosmonauts Oleg Noysky and Piotr Dobro, will now take over the task. French astronaut Bisquet told the press conference that he was not nervous before the return flight.
However, the Crew Dragon that has Crew-2 on the International Space Station has a problem: the toilet is broken. So all four astronauts have to return to Earth wearing some kind of diaper. This is of course “suboptimal,” said astronaut MacArthur. “But there are a lot of little challenges in space travel and we’re ready to take control of that.”
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