E.For the first time in three years, Matthias Maurer, a German astronaut, has set off for the International Space Station ISS. The 51-year-old Saarlander started on Thursday with three NASA colleagues using a “Falcon 9” rocket on board a “Crew Dragon” from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in the US state of Florida. The start had previously been postponed several times – first because of bad weather conditions, then because of a “minor medical problem” with one of the crew members and finally another crew had to be fetched back from the ISS.
After around 22 hours of flight, Maurer and his NASA colleagues Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron – the so-called “Crew-3” – are supposed to dock with the ISS on Friday. Maurer is now the twelfth German in space, is set to become the fourth on the ISS – and is the first to fly in a “Crew Dragon” owned by Elon Musk for the private space agency SpaceX. It is the third astronaut transport to the ISS with a spacecraft from SpaceX, previously there had already been a successful manned test with a “Crew Dragon”.
Six months at an altitude of 400 kilometers
Maurer is to carry out numerous experiments on the ISS at an altitude of around 400 kilometers for about six months, and the astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) is also expected to complete an outdoor mission. The last time a German Esa astronaut was in space was Alexander Gerst in 2018.
At the age of 51, Maurer is the oldest German astronaut on a maiden flight. After applying to Esa, the man with a doctorate in materials science left more than 8,000 candidates behind and trained for years for the journey into weightlessness.
Actually, Maurer should have met his French colleague Thomas Pesquet on the ISS, who had been there since April. Because of the many shifts, Pesquet and his crew – the NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur as well as the Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide – could not wait for the arrival of the “Crew-3” and returned to Earth on Tuesday. Following Maurer, the Italian Esa astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is scheduled to fly to the ISS in 2022 – this would be the first time that three Esa astronauts would be on the space station one after the other.
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