SpaceX launches go perfectly every time except when they don’t, but thankfully it’s so far, so good for its launch early this morning. This crewed flight to the International Space Station is SpaceX’s second operational mission for NASA.
The launch of the Crew Dragon capsule starts at around 4:28:15, though you can skip to 4:52:30 for a highlight reel of the whole thing:
The crew, consisting of the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, the Frenchman Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan, were taken to the launchpad in Tesla Model Xs.
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis was on hand to play “America the Beautiful” and so was SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. At around 1:09:30 in the video above you can see the astronauts’ socially distanced sendoff with friends and family — socially distanced this time not only because of the pandemic but because they are going to space.
All four astronauts have been to space before, according to the New York Times.
Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA, the Japanese space agency. Mr. Hoshide, 52, has made two previous trips to space. He was a member of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery in 2008, and in 2012 he spent four months on the space station.
Shane Kimbrough of NASA. Mr. Kimbrough, 53, is the commander of Crew-2. He has made two previous trips to space, once on the space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and then spending more than six months on the space station from October 2016 to April 2017.
K. Megan McArthur of NASA. Dr. McArthur, 49, is the mission’s pilot and previously flew on the space shuttle Atlantis in May 2009 on the last mission to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. During that mission, Dr. McArthur, an oceanographer by training, operated the shuttle’s robotic arm to grab the telescope and place it in the cargo bay.
Dr. McArthur is married to Bob Behnken, one of the astronauts who traveled on the first astronaut flight of the same SpaceX capsule last year. She will sit in the seat he occupied during that flight.
Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Mr. Pesquet, 43, previously spent six months on the space station from November 2016 to June 2017, overlapping with Mr. Kimbrough for most of his stay. He is from France.
The four will spend six months aboard the International Space Station. Docking is planned for 5:10 a.m. EDT tomorrow, or a little less than 24 hours after the launch at 5:49 a.m. today from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.
As for the side drama of whether the rocket that lifted the Crew Dragon to space would return safely back to Earth, things appeared to go smoothly on that front, with the rocket successfully landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean a little less than 10 minutes after launch.