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A delayed SpaceX launch is happening tonight. What you need to know

An unmanned SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will launch this week, carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station for a six-month stay and work in space on the International Space Station. As previously announced, this will be SpaceX's fourth mission to the space station.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at precisely 9:03 p.m. ET on Wednesday — a time that was chosen to ensure that the spacecraft would arrive at the International Space Station on schedule. Once the spacecraft reaches orbit and begins its slow approach to the International Space Station, where it is scheduled to dock at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday, the astronauts will spend the entire day aboard the spacecraft.

Despite the fact that SpaceX intended to launch Crew-3 on Halloween, liftoff was delayed as a result of rough weather over the Atlantic Ocean, which could have hampered rescue efforts if the rocket misfired and the astronauts were forced to make an emergency splashdown landing in the ocean. When an emergency occurs, Crew Dragon has the capability to jettison a crew to safety, which the space agency believes makes it one of the safest spacecraft to have ever flown. Although SpaceX has never been required to perform such an emergency exit, having the option to do so — as well as ensuring a smooth recovery — is one of the reasons the space agency believes Crew Dragon is among the safest spacecraft ever flown, according to the agency.

It was later reported that the flight was postponed even further because one of the astronauts on Crew-3 was suffering from a "medical issue." The space agency stated that the incident was not a medical emergency and that it had nothing to do with Covid, though it did not provide any additional information on the matter.

After the Inspiration4 mission, which launched in September, the Crew-3 team's four astronauts — NASA's Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency — will be the first to launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon since that mission. On a three-day tourism mission, that spacecraft orbited at a higher altitude than any spacecraft has done since the Apollo moon landing missions, and it carried four people, none of whom were professional astronauts, on a three-day tourism mission.

Described as a "gift" by NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, the Inspiration4 mission brought attention to problems with a critical component of the Crew Dragon spacecraft — the toilet. As a result, the problem was identified and fixed in time for subsequent NASA missions.

The crew of the Inspiration4 spacecraft was alerted to a problem with the onboard toilet's fan, which is responsible for creating the suction necessary for toileting in microgravity. The spacecraft was dismantled after it returned to Earth, and during the dismantling process, SpaceX discovered "contamination."

According to William Gerstenmaier, a former NASA associate administrator who now serves as SpaceX's head of mission assurance, the problem stemmed from the "disconnection" or "ungluing" of a tube that was holding the urine in storage. According to the researchers, "this allowed urine to essentially bypass storage tank and enter the fan system."

Additionally, a group of astronauts were unable to use the on-board toilet of their Crew Dragon spacecraft on Monday as they returned to Earth from the International Space Station due to a technical problem. According to NASA, the astronauts discovered evidence of "contamination" in their capsule, which they believe was caused by a leaking bathroom. For the remainder of the nine-hour journey, they were forced to rely on undergarments, which were essentially adult diapers.

The tube on the brand new Crew Dragon capsule, which will launch on Wednesday for the Crew-3 mission, was welded in place by SpaceX engineers.

Following the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011, which left Russia's Soyuz spacecraft as the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station, NASA has spent more than a decade increasing the number of people on board the 21-year-old space station.

Kayla Barron, a nuclear engineer with a master's degree from the University of Cambridge, was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017. Barron comes from a field that requires extreme living conditions and extended periods of isolation: submarines. Barron made history in 2010 when she became one of the first women to serve on a Navy submarine.

After having that firsthand experience of living and working beneath the ocean's surface, Barron explained to reporters last month, "it was only after that that I made the connection between living and working in space's vacuum and comprehended the type of team that would be required to do so successfully." "All of those parallels instilled confidence in me to...apply [for a position in NASA's astronaut corps.]"

Raja Chari also became a member of NASA's astronaut corps in 2017, making him one of the organization's newest members. This will be his first space flight, which will take place in 2018. He earned a master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a pilot's license from the United States Naval Test Pilot School, which has a long history of supplying pilots to the astronaut corps.

Chari and Barron have also been selected to be members of NASA's Artemis astronaut corps, which will fly on future lunar missions with the agency. Barron went on to say that traveling to the International Space Station is the "best possible training" for a future lunar mission because it provides "the opportunity to learn from experienced people" as well as "personal development."

Matthias Maurer will be making his first trip to space, and he will have the opportunity to conduct a spacewalk and activate a new robotic arm that was recently delivered to the space station aboard a Russian spacecraft, making it a memorable experience.

According to him, "this arm will be able to transport science payloads from inside the station to the outside via a Russian airlock and then conduct experiments on the outside without having to perform a spacewalk."

Among the crew members will be NASA's Tom Marshburn, who will be the mission's pilot and the mission's lone veteran astronaut. A physicist with a doctorate in medicine, he began his career with NASA in the early 1990s as a flight surgeon before moving to the position of chief medical officer. Since joining NASA's official astronaut corps in 2004, he has flown on one Space Shuttle mission and one Russian Soyuz mission to the International Space Station, as well as on a number of other missions.

According to Marshburn, when asked what he's most looking forward to during his time on board, he replied, "Certainly one of the pinnacles of your time up on board is the opportunity to do a spacewalk, but what we're doing day to day in the laboratory will be what many of us are looking forward to the most."

For more than two decades, the International Space Station (ISS) has hosted astronauts from around the world who have been conducting scientific research. A unique feature of the space station compared to other laboratories on Earth is that physical and biological phenomena are unaffected by Earth's gravitational pull because the space station is in a microgravity environment. For example, reproducing an experiment conducted on the ground on the station can provide scientists with a more fundamental understanding of how something works.

These experiments will include an attempt to grow a "perfect crystal," which will aid in our understanding of biological processes, a study of the effect of diet on astronaut health, and a demonstration of an Android smartphone video guidance sensor for guidance, navigation, and control of the Astrobee free-flying robot.

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