Two NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut veteran and Russia’s only female cosmonaut flew to the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday to prepare for Wednesday’s launch to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Their Falcon 9 rocket jumped to the top of historic Pad 39A before dawn on Saturday and turned vertical just after 12 noon EST. Minutes later, Crew 5 Commander Nicole Mann, Josh Kasada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and astronaut Anna Kikina landed on the spaceport’s runway after flying from Houston to begin final preparations.

Crew 5 astronauts spoke to reporters on the runway of NASA’s disposable shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center shortly after arriving from Houston. From left to right: Commander Nicole Mann, unidentified translator, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, Josh Kasada, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.


“First of all, my prayers and thoughts go out to all the people in Florida affected by the devastating hurricane,” Wakata said. “With this launch, I hope we can brighten up the Florida sky a little bit for everyone.”

The astronauts plan to don their spacesuits and dock with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday morning for a dress rehearsal. Later in the day, SpaceX engineers plan to test launch the Falcon 9’s first stage engines to test their readiness for flight.

If all goes well, Mann and her crewmates will pull up for real around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to prepare for launch just after 12 p.m., when Earth’s rotation will bring the rocket into the plane of the space station’s orbit.

Crew 5’s Falcon 9 rocket was rolled to the top of Pad 39A and turned vertical on Saturday, setting the stage for a dress rehearsal and engine test launch on Sunday, before launching on Wednesday during a flight to the International Space Station.

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It will take the crew about 29 hours to catch up to the lab complex and arrive at an automated docking station in the forward port of the station around 5 a.m. Thursday.

To welcome them aboard will be Expedition 68 Commander Samantha Cristofaretti and her Crew 4 mates, Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, along with Soyuz MS-22/68S crew members Sergei Prokopiev, Dmitri Petelin, and by NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. who arrived at the station on September 21.

Vakata is making his fifth space flight, while Mann, Kasada and Kikina, the first Russian cosmonaut to fly aboard Crew Dragon, are newbies to space.

Rubio’s addition to the Soyuz crew and Kikina’s addition to Crew 5 are the result of a recent agreement between NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency, that requires at least one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut to be aboard the station at all times.

Cosmonaut Anna Kikina, the first Russian woman assigned to fly the SpaceX Crew Dragon, tells her crewmates that she is excited to join them on a flight to the space station.


Without such an agreement, a medical emergency—or some other problem that could force Crew Dragon or Soyuz to depart early—could leave the station with a crew sponsored entirely by Russia or NASA with no experience with another country’s systems. .

Kikina said she was excited about the opportunity.

“I want to share my feelings with you,” she said in broken English. “I really want to say from my side and everyone who created this incredible, incredible opportunity for me to be a part of something big for all of us together. And to be a part of this big for me, maybe for you, Crew 5. I really love my teammates, I’m really comfortable.”

Kikina, who joined the Roskosmos Cosmonaut Corps in 2012, said she was stunned when she was told she had been assigned to Crew 5.

“My supervisors just assigned me and said to me, do you want to be part of Crew 5? Yes. Why not? But I was very surprised.”