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Elon Musk, (born June 28, 1971, Pretoria, South Africa), South African-born American entrepreneur who cofounded the electronic-payment firm PayPal and formed SpaceX, maker of launch vehicles and spacecraft. britannica.comElon Musk | Biography & Facts
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19 April, 2021 - 09:00am
SpaceX rolled its 207-foot-long Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, where it is set to take four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) April 22.
The target launch time from Launch Complex 39A is 6:11am ET, with the rocket reaching the ISS April 23 at 5:30am ET.
The enormous Falcon 9 was rolled to the site horizontally on a massive cart Friday, just a day after NASA and the Elon Musk-owned company received the official 'go' to proceed with the Crew-2 mission.
The crew members, NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet, also arrived at the site today to watch the craft make the journey.
NASA says the rocket faces one technical glitch which has seen excess oxygen being loaded into the rocket's tanks. But engineers expect to be able to fix the issue before launch.
A backup window for the missions has been made available on April 23, with additional options on April 26 and 27.
SpaceX rolled its 207-foot-long Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, where it is set to take four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) April 22
The Falcon 9 was rolled out of its horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX and NASA got the green light on Thursday to launch the rocket after the completion of a critical flight readiness review.
Engineers did discover a potential error, in which extra oxygen may be loading into the rocket's tanks, Space.com reported.
The Falcon 9 rockets use liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene as propellant.
The crew members, (from left to Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, also arrived at the site today to watch the craft make the journey
On Thursday, SpaceX and NASA got the green light for launch after the completion of a critical flight readiness review
'We reviewed that with the NASA team today, but we didn't have enough time to really go over all the data and look at all the consequences of what that could mean,' said Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX's vice president of build and flight reliability.
Gerstenmaier said that the agency was taking 'the extra step' to ensure the situation didn't pose a risk to the crew or vehicle.
The issue needs to be resolved by Saturday, though, when NASA conducts a 'static fire' test, in which the rocket engines are ignited while the vehicle remains on the ground.
Engineers did discover a potential issue with extra oxygen loading into the rocket's tanks, though previous Falcon 9 missions have been successfully completed with the same configuration
A final launch readiness review is scheduled for April 20 and, if all goes well, Crew-2 will lift off at 6:11am Eastern Daylight Time on the morning of April 22.
The crew will board the same capsule, Endeavour, that carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from ISS last year for the Demo-2 test flight.
Kimbrough, Hoshide, Pesque and McArthur, who is married to Behnken, are slated to arrive at 5:30 am on April 23 and spend approximately six months aboard the orbiting station.
Their mission marks the first time in over 20 years that astronauts from NASA, JAXA and ESA have flown together.
The four will conduct research on health, medical technology and other fields, before returning some time in the fall.
The issue needs to be resolved by April 17, when NASA will conduct a 'static fire' test, in which the engines are ignited while the vehicle remains grounded. A final launch readiness check is scheduled for April 20
The Falcon 9 (pictured) is expected to launch April 23 at 6:11 am, with Kimbrough, Hoshide, Pesque and McArthur arriving at the ISS at 5:30 am on April 23
They will overlap with some of the first astronauts sent up to the ISS on the first Crew Dragon spaceship in November 2020.
In February, an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket missed the landing pad and crashed into the water.
The rocket successfully deployed 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit, but the booster missed the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in Port Canaveral upon its return and crashed into the ocean.
It was the rocket's sixth launch, and SpaceX director Benji Reed put the accident down to wear and tear.
'A little bit of a hole developed and allowed hot gases to be where they're not supposed to be and caused that engine to shut down,' he said.
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A SpaceX astronaut family: Megan McArthur is about to pilot the spaceship her husband, Bob Behnken, flew last year
18 April, 2021 - 07:25am
"He could watch a big rocket launch with both mom and dad there, and we could talk to him about it," McArthur recently told reporters in a call.
Getting assigned to the Endeavour was "a neat surprise, and kind of a fun twist on the whole thing," McArthur said. "I'm going to launch in the same seat. So that is kind of a fun thing that we can share, you know, I can tease him and say, 'Hey, Can you hand over the keys? I'm ready now to go.'"
Still, for Theo, who turns 7 this month, it's not easy having astronaut parents.
"Like any child facing a parent being gone for six months, he's not super excited about it," she said.
When it came time for Behnken to say goodbye before his launch, NASA TV microphones picked him up telling Theo: "Be good for mom. Make her life easy."
"One of the hardest things to do is watch the person that you love launch into space," she told The Washington Post before the liftoff. "It's much harder than actually doing it yourself when you're in the rocket. You have the training. You're prepared for the mission. When you're watching, you're just a spectator. And no matter what happens, there's nothing you can do to contribute to the situation."
To make matters more difficult, it wasn't yet clear at the time how long Behnken and Hurley would stay on the space station. They had up to three months in orbit, but they could have left earlier. It depended on NASA's schedule, and on how well the Crew Dragon's solar panels held up in space.
"I've just got home, I'm putting down the bags, I got to make dinner," McArthur said. "So finding that right time where you can really engage with one another and connect is part of the challenge."
McArthur began to train for her own mission while Behnken was still in space. She relied heavily on a babysitter. Then finally, her husband splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico three months after he left the planet. That's when McArthur really had to start traveling for her own training.
Then for the last eight months, it's been mom's turn to follow a similar schedule. Her time on the ISS will be even longer than Behnken's.
"Megan being gone for six months will be kind of a unique experience for me. We haven't been apart for that long a period of a time," Behnken told People.
"I figured it was a pretty good screening program, so you got a full background check," McArthur told People.
Now, the astronaut couple is paving the way for a new era of human space exploration. Commercial astronaut launches to the space station will likely become common. Both NASA and SpaceX want to return astronauts to the moon and, eventually, send humans to Mars.
"My son has said that he's going to go to the moon," McArthur said. "I've asked him, you know, would you mind bringing mom with you? And he said sure."