NASA and SpaceX are looking to finish up the final demonstration mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon astronaut spacecraft at the end of this week, but it’s already looking ahead to Crew-2 — the second operational flight of Crew Dragon, currently set for sometime next spring. The agency revealed the four people that will fly aboard that launch, including two NASA astronauts, as well as one from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and one from the European Space Agency (ESA).
NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough will join JAXA’s Akihiko Hoshide and ESA’s Thomas Pesquet on that flight, which will follow Crew-1, currently scheduled for sometime in late September after Demo-2 concludes. This is a regular mission, meaning the crew will be staffing the International Space Station for an extended period — six months for this stretch, sharing the orbital research platform with three astronauts who will be using a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to make the trip.
That means there will be seven total crew members sharing the Station at once, which is an increase of its usual full complement of six. It sounds like that’s going to become the new normal according to NASA, with the extra person meaning that the crew can “effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.”
If it doesn’t sound like the math works out on that, consider that ISS crew members spend a lot of their time on routine maintenance and operational tasks. A seventh person on board helping with those everyday activities should indeed free up a lot of additional time for people to conduct experiments and do research, as it means less time split for needed, but unscientific, activities involved in keeping the orbital platform operating well.
All members of this crew have previously spent time in space, but this will be McArthurs’ first trip to the International Space Station. Her last trip to space was aboard the Space Shuttle in 2009, when she participated in the final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. McArthur is also the wife of fellow astronaut Bob Behnken, who is currently at the ISS having launched on Crew Dragon for its first-ever human spaceflight.