Crew-6: Here’s a look at the four astronauts flying on NASA’s next mission to the ISS

The countdown for NASA’s next astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is on. Working together with SpaceX, the U.S. space agency is planning to launch its sixth long-duration crew mission as soon as Feb. 26.

Strapping inside the Dragon will be one of NASA’s most diverse crews yet: NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, along with United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian Cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

They’re set to blast off from NASA’s historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour, which will mark the fourth flight for the vehicle.

As the veteran of the group, Bowen is set to be the mission’s commander. During a news briefing on Thursday, he said that the crew was going to be busy with all sorts of visiting vehicles during their six-month science mission.

“Shortly after we get to the space station, SpaceX 27 is going to arrive with a full complement of science, and usually when SpaceX vehicles get to the space station, it’s 30 days of continuous work,” Bowen said, adding that another cargo flight, NG-19, will follow on SpaceX’s heels, followed by two different crewed vehicles and another cargo flight in the summer.

“So it’s just such an exciting time for us,” he said. “We’re going to be tired, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Bowen is flying with three newbie astronauts from three different countries. When asked how the Russian and American astronauts work together despite the political tensions here on Earth, Bowen said “I’ve been working with cosmonauts for over 20 years and it’s always amazing because despite whatever is happening on Earth, once you get to space, it’s only one crew.”

“Space cooperation has a very long history and how we live [and work together] on the International Space Station is a very good example of how people should be living on Earth,” Fedyaev said. “We want to be that example.”

Hoburg was selected as an astronaut in 2017 and finished his training in 2020. This will be his first flight. He was also selected as one of the 18 astronauts who could be chosen for future Artemis crew flights.

Sultan Alneyadi will be the first astronaut from the UAE to fly on a long-duration mission. In 2019, Hazza Mansouri completed an eight day mission on the ISS as the UAE’s first astronaut. Now, Alneyadi will follow in his footsteps.

Alneyadi says he is excited to fly to space and is looking forward to the crew’s science-focused mission and sharing his food and culture with the rest of the crew.

He also explained how the crew came up with the unique idea for its mission patch, which have a rich history in space travel. Crews works together to design a patch that symbolizes their mission and team.

“We were looking for different elements linked to dragons and discovered that we all liked ships,” he said. “So we thought it would be neat to have a ship in the patch with a dragon figurehead.”

Alneyadi said that they incorporated details representing each member of the crew, including writing all their names in their respective languages, and incorporating the Draco constellation, which shares the same name as the engines that power the Dragon spacecraft.

“The final element in our design is the ISS itself, which looks like an anchor to the ship,” he said. “We’re really happy and proud of our patch.”

Bowen, who previously flew three missions on the space shuttle, says he is looking forward to living in the space station that he helped build.

“It’s kind of like being a contractor, when you build a house: it’s really cool to see the process but then you never really get to live there,” he said. “Now, I actually get to live in the house that I helped build, and I’m really excited.”

Fedyaev, who was originally set to fly on a Soyuz before NASA and Roscosmos completed a seat swap agreement, was asked how the SpaceX Dragon compares to the Russian Soyuz.

“You really can’t compare them as they were designed 50-60 years apart,” he said. “But it’s more like comparing a small one-bedroom studio and two smaller rooms.”

The crew was also asked about the possibility of MMOD impacts (micrometeorite and orbital debris), like the recent incident with the Soyuz MS-22 vehicle.

Officials at both NASA and SpaceX said they may reinforce the Dragon crew capsules with extra shielding in hopes of preventing any potential coolant leaks from orbital debris strikes, like the recent micrometeorite that struck the Russian Soyuz currently parked at the ISS.

The crew is slated to launch no earlier than Feb. 26 and is expected to spend nearly 200 days in space.

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