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Last stop before launch: NASA’s next astronaut crew arrives at Kennedy Space Center ahead of mission to space station

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo: NASA

The next crew of astronauts launching to the International Space Station are arriving at Kennedy Space Center today, ahead of a launch this weekend.

The crew of three NASA astronauts and one Italian astronaut will make their final preparations for launch, flying on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

For SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission, NASA’s Kjell Lingren will command the mission, Robert Hines the pilot, and Jessica Watkins will serve as mission specialist. European Space Agency Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoferetti will serve as mission specialist.

NASA pays SpaceX for rides to the station. Crew-4 will travel in a brand new Crew Dragon capsule named Freedom. The Falcon 9 rocket launching the spacecraft previously carried the last NASA crew to head to the station, along with two other uncrewed mission.

Once launched, Crew-4 will spend about six months on the station, conducting science experiments and maintenance on the station.

For Watkins, it will be her first trip to space and mark the first time a black woman will complete a long-duration mission on the station.

But before the Crew-4 mission can launch, the crew of the all-private space station mission must first return to Earth. The four members of the Axiom-1 mission are set to depart the station Tuesday, with a splashdown scheduled for Wednesday.

If that schedule holds, Crew-4 is set to launch to the station Saturday morning, targeting a launch at 5:26 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »