NASA Selects Crew for Crew-8 Mission, Prepares for Crew-7 Launch

NASA is making final preparations for the launch of the Crew-7 mission later this month. It was recently pushed back by two days to August 25 due to work on the launchpad that will be used for the launch.

The launchpad was recently used to launch the EchoStar satellite on a Falcon Heavy. SpaceX is spending the extra time to make sure the launchpad is fully prepared for the Crew-7 launch.

NASA also says the delay will help reduce potential conflicts due to heavy traffic around the International Space Station. A Russian Progress is scheduled to launch on August 24 and deliver cargo to the International Space Station. The new Crew-7 launch date means it can dock with the space station on August 26.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon named “Endurance” will carry NASA’s Jasmin Moghbeli, Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency, Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa and Russian Cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov to the International Space Station.

Crew-6 is currently slated to return to Earth on the same day. Normally, the space station crews have a few-day handover period between the time new crew members arrive and previous crew members return home. However, NASA has not commented on whether it plans to delay Crew-6’s return.

Meanwhile, NASA has announced the crew for Crew-8, which will launch as early as February 2024. NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick and Michael Barratt will serve as commander and pilot, respectively. Fellow NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps will serve as a mission specialist. She was one of a few astronauts who was reassigned from the Boeing Starliner, which is still being developed and suffered setbacks due to technical issues. She had previously been removed from an ISS crew assignment for unspecified reasons, so this will be her first mission.

“I don’t know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail or at what level,” she told an interviewer shortly after her previous removal from the crew assignment.

In most cases when astronauts get removed from a flight, NASA made the decision due to the astronaut’s health or family issues. An early case involved Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton being removed from his Mercury flight due to a minor heart ailment, though he later flew on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Russian Cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin will join the crew as a mission specialist.

Both crews will serve a 5- to 6-month increment on the International Space Station. During their respective increments, they will work on maintenance and valuable experiments in the space station’s microgravity labs.

Crew-7 will conduct more than 200 experiments during their increment. These experiments include collection of microbial samples from the station’s exterior, tests of the health effects of different amounts of time spent in microgravity, and a test of the physiological effects of sleep in space.

They may also welcome Boeing Starliner’s first crewed flight to the International Space Station. Boeing is expected to announce a launch date during an update on August 7.

Other spacecraft arrivals will include Axiom Space’s AX-3 mission. Axiom Space already conducted two successful missions to the space station, each commanded by a retired NASA astronaut.

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser is also expected to make its first cargo delivery to the International Space Station during their stay.