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SpaceX launches a new crew on the ISS

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Kennedy Space Center, Florida – Three American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut blasted off Sunday evening from Florida for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 10:53 p.m. from the Kennedy Space Center, lighting up the night sky with a long, bright plume of orange flame.

Just minutes after launch, as the rocket flew over the Atlantic, it was traveling at 9,656 km/h (6,000 mph), NASA television commentators said.

It took about nine minutes for the capsule to get into orbit as it prepared to dock with the ISS and relieve four more crew members.

A first attempt to launch the mission on Saturday failed due to high winds.

Endeavor, the capsule that carried the three men and a woman into orbit, has already been launched four times by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The company has provided astronaut launch services to NASA since 2020 as part of the US space agency’s Commercial Crew Program, with rival Boeing yet to complete certification.

Matthew Dominick, leader of the Crew-8 mission, is making his first space flight, just like his fellow American Jeanette Epps. It will also be a first for Russian Alexander Grebenkin.

Michael Barratt, doctor, makes his third visit to the ISS. Its first two were aboard space shuttles, production of which was halted in 2011.

Space remains a rare area of ​​cooperation between the United States and Russia since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The United States last month imposed new sanctions against 500 Russian targets, also seeking to establish a price for the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison.

Seven people are currently on board the ISS. After a few days of overlap, four members of the current ISS crew – an American, a Dane and a Japanese and a Russian – will return to Earth in their own capsule.

The renewed crew will conduct experiments, including using stem cells to create organoids (masses of artificially grown cells resembling organs) to study degenerative diseases, taking advantage of the microgravity environment to enable three-dimensional cell growth impossible on Earth.

Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program manager, told reporters last week that the United States was closely monitoring a small leak on the Russian side of the research platform, the latest in a series of recent problems with the Russian side.

A hatch is currently closed to isolate the leak from the rest of the ISS.

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