NASA and SpaceX launched Crew-5 on the Crew Dragon named “Endurance” on October 5, 2022. Once it reaches the International Space Station, Crew-5 will join Expedition 68 on the International Space Station and spend the next several months conducting valuable scientific research.
Crew-5 is the fifth operational flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew program. The Demo-2 mission became the first to carry a crew and final test flight of the Crew Dragon when it carried Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station in May 2020.
Crew-5 Mission Commander Nicole Mann became the first Native American woman in space with this flight. Nicole Mann is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps whose previous experience includes working as a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. She joined NASA as an astronaut in June 2013.
Josh Cassada is the pilot for Crew-5. He also joined NASA as an astronaut in 2013.
JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina also launched on Crew-5. Wakata is making his fifth trip into space and has now flown on three different types of spacecraft. Kikina is the first of two cosmonauts flying to the International Space Station on the Crew Dragon as part of a deal between NASA and Roscosmos.
Automated docking procedures are expected to begin at 4:57 pm EST on October 6, 2022. Crew-4 astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti will return home after a handover period of a few days. During the handover, the International Space Station will be relatively crowded with eleven people on board.
Science During Expedition 68
“The International Space Station continues to serve a critical role in helping NASA and our partners understand and maximize the unique attributes of the microgravity environment,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate.
The Canadian Space Agency sponsored a cardiorespiratory study called CARDIOBREATH. This study will provide valuable data on the effects of microgravity on the cardiorespiratory system and blood pressure during a long-duration space mission.
Project EAGLE will track heart muscle cells grown from stem cells, continuing work toward a fully functional 3D heart tissue model that scientists can use to test new drugs. Studies like this can lead to better treatments for heart disease, which is a leading cause of death in the United States.
The BioFabrication Facility (BFF) previously printed heart cells as part of a complementary study for Project Eagle and a partial human knee meniscus in 2019. Now it returns to the International Space Station to create 3D-printed knee cartilage tissue and cardiac tissue samples. Study of these samples can lead to improved implants and address the long waiting list for organ transplants. The BioFabrication Facility now includes upgrades to its printheads for improved temperature control, which can improve its ability to create useful samples.
Crew-6 will return to Earth in Spring 2022, not long after Crew-6 is scheduled to launch.