Crew of 4 From 4 Countries Heads to Space Station

'We're a united team with a common mission'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 26, 2023 8:24 AM CDT
4 Astronauts From 4 Countries Head to ISS
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station lifts off from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023.   (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

Four astronauts from four countries rocketed toward the International Space Station on Saturday. They should reach the orbiting lab in their SpaceX capsule Sunday, replacing four astronauts who have been living up there since March. A NASA astronaut was joined on the predawn liftoff from Kennedy Space Center by fliers from Denmark, Japan, and Russia. They clasped one another's gloved hands upon reaching orbit. It was the first US launch where every spacecraft seat was occupied by a different country, the AP reports. Until now, NASA had always included two or three of its own on its SpaceX taxi flights. A fluke in timing led to the assignments, officials said.

"We're a united team with a common mission," NASA's Jasmin Moghbeli radioed from orbit. Added NASA's Ken Bowersox, space operations mission chief: "Boy, what a beautiful launch ... and with four international crew members, really an exciting thing to see." Moghbeli, a Marine pilot serving as commander, is joined on the six-month mission by the European Space Agency's Andreas Mogensen, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa, and Russia's Konstantin Borisov. "To explore space, we need to do it together," the European Space Agency's director general, Josef Aschbacher, said minutes before liftoff. "Space is really global, and international cooperation is key."

The astronauts' paths to space couldn't be more different:

  • Moghbeli's parents fled Iran during the 1979 revolution. Born in Germany and raised on New York's Long Island, she joined the Marines and flew attack helicopters in Afghanistan. The first-time space traveler hopes to show Iranian girls that they, too, can aim high. "Belief in yourself is something really powerful," she said before the flight.
  • Mogensen worked on oil rigs off the West African coast after getting an engineering degree. He told people puzzled by his job choice that "in the future we would need drillers in space" like Bruce Willis' character in the killer asteroid film Armageddon. He's convinced the rig experience led to his selection as Denmark's first astronaut.
  • Furukawa spent a decade as a surgeon before making Japan's astronaut cut. Like Mogensen, he's visited the station before.
  • Borisov, a space rookie, turned to engineering after studying business. He runs a freediving school in Moscow and judges the sport, in which divers shun oxygen tanks and hold their breath underwater.
(More International Space Station stories.)

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