NASA’s upcoming Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) marks a significant shift in the makeup of astronauts on long-duration missions. Unlike previous missions, only one of the four astronauts flying on Crew-7 is from the United States. This change reflects the changing nature of space exploration, with more automation and globalization playing a role.
For the astronauts flying, this shift brings several positives. Increased automation means training is quicker and less tedious, opening up more opportunities to fly on various spacecraft, such as SpaceX’s Dragon and the Russian Soyuz. It also allows for longer missions, lasting months rather than the shorter shuttle missions of around 10 days.
While international cooperation has been a cornerstone of the ISS operations, with partner agencies from the U.S., Russia, Canada, and the European Space Agency, the United States’ partner agencies are claiming more of the seats on missions. Crew-7’s all-international crew reflects this trend.
The Crew-7 mission, scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, will include NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov. Mogensen will be the first ESA astronaut and the first non-U.S. astronaut to pilot the Dragon vehicle.
This shift in the makeup of astronauts is not unexpected, given the limited number of seats available and the international commitments involved. NASA’s participation in crew swap agreements with Russia ensures a steady rotation of astronauts but limits the number of U.S. astronauts flying. Additionally, NASA’s focus on its lunar-focused Artemis program further constrains the availability of astronauts for ISS missions.
Despite these challenges, NASA is working to ensure a stable astronaut roster to support the ISS and future missions. However, with the current smaller astronaut corps and the growing demands for specialized training, the agency may face mission delays or disruptive crew reorganizations in the future.
Overall, the Crew-7 mission represents a shift in spaceflight purpose, with a focus on international cooperation, increased automation, and longer-duration missions. As space exploration continues to evolve, NASA is adapting to the changing landscape and finding new ways to collaborate with international partners.
– NASA’s next crewed mission to the International Space Station is set to launch from Kennedy Space Center on an American rocket and capsule built SpaceX – FLORIDA TODAY
– NASA’s Commercial Crew Program – NASA.gov