KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A veteran team of space explorers lifted off Friday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida beginning their six-month stay on the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet launched Friday at 5:49 a.m. in the SpaceX Crew Dragon atop the Falcon 9 rocket. They will arrive at the ISS Saturday morning.
The astronauts launched in the same spacecraft called Dragon Endeavour that launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley last year.
Each member of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission brings a unique set of skills, interests and favorite foods to the orbiting laboratory. The four crew members --two American, one French and one Japanese-- also have worked together on previous missions in space or on Earth. The comradery between the crew is important for a long duration spaceflight.
“We’re already like a family,” Hoshide said in a NASA interview.
The astronauts lived together while training to fly Crew Dragon at SpaceX headquarters in California but also enjoyed meals and down time together.
The international crew members also will bring some food from their home countries into space. Pesquet is excited to share crepes and beef bourguignon with his crewmates. Hoshide said he unfortunately won’t be bringing sushi but he plans to share some Japanese cuisine in orbit.
Read on to get to learn some more about the Crew-2 team.
Commander Shane Kimbrough
Kimbrough, 53, is a retired U.S. Army colonel and will be the commander of the Crew-2 mission to the ISS as commander Kimbrough is in charge of the spacecraft from launch to landing.
“I’m just a facilitator for some amazing people, Megan, Aki and Thomas, and I’m hopefully just gonna stay out of their way. But really, I’m really the commander in charge of the operations anytime we’re in the Dragon vehicles. So that’s pre launch through launch on orbit until we get to the space station,” he explained in a NASA interview.
He graduated from West Point in 1989 and became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, entering aviation school and becoming an Army aviators. He was deployed to Southeast Asia in 1990 serving in Operation Desert Storm. Kimbrough served in several leadership positions with the U.S. Army including Apache helicopter company commander with the 229th Aviation Regiment in Forth Braff, North Carolina.
The Texas native has a masters of science from Georgia Institute of Technology and served as an assistant professor of mathematical sciences at the U.S. Military Academy.
Kimbrough and wife Robbie have three grown children, reports The Associated Press.
Kimbrough is a veteran astronaut with six spacewalks and 189 days in space on his resume. He took part in a 2008 space station assembly mission that included expanding the living quarters of the orbiting lab. He flew again in 2016 and was commander of the ISS staying for six months. During that stay he conducted four spacewalks over 26 hours outside the station.
What songs would you listen to before you launch to space? Here’s my driving out to the launch pad playlist. Listen along on your own when you see us driving to our rocket tomorrow on @NASA TV! pic.twitter.com/SAa0UmD2a5— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) April 22, 2021
Fellow Crew-2 member McArthur described Kimbrough as the quiet one of the bunch but with a great sense of humor.
“Shane is one of those people that’s quiet but very, very funny, and has a lot of great experiences, both, you know, family life experiences that he shares with me as well as Army experiences, and spaceflight experiences,” McArthur said in a NASA interview.
That spacewalk time will grow as Kimbrough, Pesquet and Hoshide will all be conducting some spacewalks during their stay.
His fellow Crew-2 member Thomas Pesquet was also on the station during four months of Kimbrough’s last visit so the pair already have experience in space together.
Kimbrough plans to listen to some alternative rock and rock n’ roll on his way to the Falcon 9 rocket at launchpad 39A.
Pilot Megan McArthur
McArthur, 49, will serve as the Crew Dragon pilot on the mission. This will be her second spaceflight and first stay on the space station. Her previous spaceflight was a Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in 2009.
McArthur has a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from the University of California and a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of California.
As an oceanographer, McArthur performed research activities at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. She served as chief scientist during at-sea data collection operations, and has planned and led diving operations during sea-floor instrument deployments and sediment-sample collections. She also conducted educational demonstrations at the Birth Aquarium from inside the 70,000 gallon tank of the California Kelp Forest.
Outside of being an astronaut, McArthur has also worked in the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Mission Control Centers as a capsule communicator, known as CapCom.
“I think it’s one of the best jobs that we have. Next to flying in space, you are a part of the team that is helping fly in space, the flight director and that whole team that’s running the spaceship, and you’re right there as the voice of that room,” she said of CapCom. “So you’re representing the crew, you’re representing the controllers on the ground, you’re that point of contact between both.”
McArthur also happens to be married to NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, who flew on Dragon Endeavour last year, marking the first human spaceflight from the U.S. in nine years and the first for SpaceX.
Kimbrough, who flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour said, “I’m really excited to find another spacecraft called Endeavour. Yet, it’s even more significant, I think for Megan, because she’s gonna fly in the same seat that her husband Bob flew in on the same spacecraft.”
McArthur and Behnken have one son, 7-year-old Theo, and the couple have started a new tradition with him to launch model rockets before either of his parents launch to space.
It wouldn't feel like Launch Week without a couple of test launches... pic.twitter.com/nQfp8MuomJ— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) April 20, 2021
Hoshide and McArthur’s sons are close in age and the crew members have spent a lot of time getting to know one another over the years.
“I really enjoy spending time with Aki,” McArthur said. “So we’re always driving back and forth when we’re in Hawthorne, and we have a lot of time to spend together. And so I really enjoy hearing his stories, you know, as a Japanese astronaut with JAXA.”
Mission specialist Thomas Pesquet
Pesquest, 43, of the European Space Agency, was born in Rouen, France.
He has a master’s degree from the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in spacecraft design and control and graduated from the Air France flight school in 2006. He is also an avid private pilot in his spare time and is a black belt in judo.
This will be Pequet’s second trip to the ISS. He was launched on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the space station in November 2016 and spent 197 days in space.
Pesquet said astronauts have to prepare for a six-month trip just like anyone else preparing to be away for that long but with a lot of additional preparation and training.
“You want to be ready for six months mission, your life must be in order if you want to perform well on a six-month mission away from home,” he said in a NASA video. “Then you find yourself in a familiar environment, because you’ve trained so much, I mean, the (Dragon) capsule looks exactly like the simulator. So you’ve been in that environment a million times, you’ve been in a suit a million times. So it’s very, very familiar. It feels just like home. And I think that’s what helps reducing your stress levels and make you ready for launch.”
L-4: Today was dry dress ! It means we rehearsed the entire launch day operations (in the middle of the night). The team was on deck and it felt real–even the playlist we listened to on the way to the rocket 🎶😉. Next time we drive to that pad, we won’t be driving back... 🚀🛑🚗 pic.twitter.com/YAoWAQH9r6— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) April 18, 2021
Pesquet, a black belt in judo, said the sport helped prepare him for spacewalking in a spacesuit.
The Frenchman also has a saxophone waiting for him on the space station. The instrument arrived sometime around his birthday during his 2017 ISS stay. He’s looking forward to playing it on Sundays when he has some off time.
“It’s waiting for me up there. I’m going to play it again, for sure. It’s a good thing to do on the Sundays. My crewmates might disagree because I lack the talent to really entertain them but it’s OK hopefully they’ll do bear with me,” he said of the brass instrument.
This time he thinks he will be bringing it home with him on Dragon due to the lack of storage space on the ISS.
Pesquet’s longtime partner, Anne Mottet, works for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, according to The Associated Press.
Mission specialist Akihiko Hoshide
Hoshide, 53, was born in Tokyo, Japan but lived in New Jersey as a young boy because of his father’s job. After moving back to Japan, he gradated from high school in Singapore.
Hoshide has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Keio University and a master of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Houston. He began working at the National Space Development Agency of Japan, now known as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in 1992.
“I have dreamt of becoming an astronaut since my childhood and tried couple of times in astronaut selection. And on my third try, got selected as an astronaut candidate in 1999,” Hoshide said in a NASA interview.
Hoshide was one of three Japanese astronaut candidates for the International Space Station in 1999. He has two previous spaceflight experiences: in 2008 on Space Shuttle Discovery and then on a Soyuz capsule to the space station in 2012 for a four-month stay on the ISS.
His fellow Crew-2 astronauts call Hoshide “Aki.”
Hoshide is married with an 11-year-old son.
This will be Hoshide’s longest time away from his family but he said he’s trying to look at it like a longer business trip. He plans to see his family on launch day at Kennedy Space Center as they waive goodbye outside the Operations and Checkout building.
All the astronauts’ families will be able to say goodbye before the Crew-2 team get into Teslas and head to launchpad 39A early Friday morning.
Follow live updates on launch day at ClickOrlando.com/space.