International astronaut crew arrive at Kennedy Space Center ahead of liftoff

American, European and Japanese astronauts to land at KSC Friday afternoon

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Four astronauts from three countries arrived at Kennedy Space Center Friday ahead of their launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket less than a week away.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, flew aboard a Gulfstream jet from NASA’s Johnson Space Center to Florida arriving at 12:45 p.m. They landed on the Launch and Landing Facility, known as the old space shuttle runway, in Merritt Island.

The astronauts were greeted by Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, as well as other representative from NASA, ESA and JAXA.

It was Pesquet’s first trip to KSC.

“I’m excited to be here at KSC because I haven’t been here before I’ve been an astronaut for more than 10 years,” he said.

Until last year, NASA relied on the Russian Space Agency to launch American astronauts.

“We’re living in the golden age of human space flight,” Pesquet said. “There’s never been that many ways to go to space.”

All four Crew-2 astronauts have previous spaceflight experience. This will mark the first for McArthur in more than 10 years and her first long-duration spaceflight.

“Getting to fly on a new vehicle, getting to stay in space for a long duration is something completely new for me,” she said.

The Gulfstream jet flew over the launchpad where the astronauts will liftoff from in just days.

“There’s nothing like it when you look out the window and see a spaceship getting prepared and realize you’re going to be riding on it in a few days,” McArthur said of the view of launchpad 39A.

The astronauts make up the Crew-2 mission launching on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship nicknamed Endeavour. The same spacecraft launched McArthur’s husband, Bob Behnken and fellow NASA Astronaut Doug Hurley, on the first SpaceX astronaut mission to the ISS last August.

SpaceX Crew 2 members, from left, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide gather at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 16, 2021 to prepare for a mission to the International Space Station. The launch is targeted for April 22. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The launch is currently scheduled for Thursday, April 22 at 6:11 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A. The astronauts will spend six months living and working on the ISS.

Also on Thursday, managers from NASA and SpaceX cleared the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule for liftoff following a flight readiness review. NASA’s international partners with ESA and JAXA also took part in the FRR.

“Looking back, it’s really, really amazing what both the SpaceX and NASA teams have accomplished,” NASA’s head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders said as SpaceX prepares to launch its third crew in under a year.

SpaceX said it must resolve one issue before conducting a test firing at the launch pad this weekend. It appears the company has been loading more liquid oxygen into its first-stage boosters than anticipated, and engineers want to make “extra certain” that poses no safety risks, said Bill Gerstenmaier, a new SpaceX vice president who used to work for NASA.

Endeavour and Falcon 9 were scheduled to be rolled out to the pad Friday ahead of launch.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Authors:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.