SpaceXCrew Dragon breathes fire as it takes off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021 at 5:49 am local time. On board is ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
The four-person crew spent approximately 23 hours orbiting Earth and catching up with the International Space Station after launch before docking at Node-2. Harmony module, marking the start of ESA’s six-month Alpha mission.
Thomas is the first European to be launched into space on an American spacecraft in more than a decade. The new Crew Dragon ships four astronauts at a time, allowing more people to live and work on the International Space Station by doing more research for scientists on Earth.
Alpha is Thomas’ second space mission, and everything should be bigger and brighter. A Russian lab module, due to arrive this summer with a European robotic arm, will provide more ways to maintain the International Space Station and support space walkers when working outdoors. Thomas will help set up this arm and prepare it for use during the Alpha mission.
More than 200 international experiments are planned during Thomas’ time in space. Of the 40 Europeans, 12 are new experiments carried out by the French space agency CNES.
At the end of the Alpha mission in October, Thomas will take over as Commander of the International Space Station for a brief period and welcome ESA Astronaut Matthias Maurer on his maiden flight into space.