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NASA gives an American the seat on Dragon flight that it had been holding for Russian

NASA yesterday announced that it has added an American astronaut to the next manned mission to ISS, set for October.

NASA said that Kayla Barron will join the Crew-3 mission, launching on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft scheduled for launch no earlier than Oct. 23. Barron joins NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, who had been assigned to Crew-3 last December.

The Crew-3 mission will relieve the Crew-2 astronauts who arrived at the station on another Crew Dragon spacecraft April 24. The four Crew-3 astronauts will remain on the station for a six-month stay.

The space agency had been holding that seat open for a Russian, as part of its long term barter arrangement whereby in exchange for flying Americans on Soyuz capsules, Russia flies Russians on American spacecraft. That arrangement had been used repeatedly when the shuttle was flying, but since its retirement the U.S. has been forced to buy its seats on Soyuz as it had nothing to offer in exchange.

With the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule however NASA has been trying to get the Russians to renew that arrangement. And though an American, Mark Vande Hei, flew for free on a Soyuz last month, the Russians have as yet refused to assign their own astronaut to this upcoming October flight, despite months of negotiations. It appears NASA decided it could wait no longer, and filled the seat with its own astronaut.

In fact, the announcement by Roscosmos on May 13th that the next two Soyuz launches to ISS will carry two commercial passengers each means that Vande Hei cannot return on a Soyuz until next year. The seat he would have used to come home now must be used by these tourists, meaning his mission will now be extended to last for as much as a full year or more.

Unless of course NASA decides to bring him home on a Dragon capsule instead.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

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  • Calvin Dodge

    Can’t the Dragon be configured to carry 7 people? If so, why not add 1 seat to bring him home at the originally-scheduled time?

  • Calvin Dodge: If NASA is really interested in going to Mars, they should take this as an opportunity to fly him as long as possible, rather than improvising an early return. Assuming of course that Vande Hei is agreeable.

  • mkent

    Can’t the Dragon be configured to carry 7 people?

    No. To reduce bad g-loading on the crew, NASA had SpaceX re-orient the seats in the cabin, and now only four seats will fit.

  • Patrick Underwood

    The Russians are *extremely unhappy* with Crew Dragon, for obvious reasons. Ah well. They can pout, but they can’t really do anything except goad the US to even faster progress toward a commercial station.

    Good luck to them, working with the Chinese. I’m sure that relationship is going to go swimmingly.

  • Jeff Wright

    That makes no sense. You would think they would be chomping at the bit to get into the cockpit of something that flies higher and faster than F-35 which their spies want to see. Dragon outperforms the mythical FIREFOX in speed and altitude at least.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Jeff Wright, as a quick perusal of their history makes clear, the Russians have come to *exactly* the wrong decision, over and over and over, since time immemorial. They are stuck in a slow-motion never-ending cultural train wreck. Suspicious of everyone and everything, always ready to huddle behind and lionize the biggest baddest warlord they can find. There are historical reasons for that, of course. But they refuse to see past them to where their better interests might lie.

    All people on Earth makes mistakes. There are many things to love and admire about Russians. I myself am a fan of Russian aviation and spaceflight. (It was a Russian who pretty much invented spaceflight.) But collectively (so to speak) they are the Masters of the Self-Own.

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