ISS flight postponed again: Maurer has to continue waiting

Status: 07.11.2021 11:19 a.m.

The German astronaut Maurer has to wait for his space mission: The start to the ISS has been postponed again. NASA wants to bring another crew back to earth first.

The German astronaut Matthias Maurer has to be patient. Actually, he should have become the twelfth German in space on the last weekend in October. Now he can leave for the International Space Station ISS at the earliest Thursday morning (Wednesday local time). First, a crew of four astronauts should be brought back to Earth from the ISS at the weekend, announced the US space agency NASA.

According to this, the earliest possible start date for Maurer and his three NASA colleagues is on Thursday at 3:03 a.m. German time (Wednesday at 9:03 p.m. local time). This would allow them to arrive at the ISS on Friday at 1:10 a.m.CET.

For the first time in three years, a German astronaut is supposed to fly into space with Maurer. Together with NASA colleagues Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, he is to launch from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida to the ISS space station. The four astronauts are to be transported by a “Crew Dragon” from Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX.

For the 51-year-old bricklayer, it is the first space mission. With the flight he would be the twelfth German in space, the fourth on the ISS and the first to be flown there with a “Crew Dragon”.

On the ISS, the astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) will carry out numerous experiments for about six months at an altitude of around 400 kilometers and will probably also complete an outdoor mission. The last time a German ESA astronaut was in space was Alexander Gerst in 2018.

The start of the 51-year-old Saarland native, originally planned for the last weekend in October, had already been postponed several times – among other things due to bad weather and a “minor medical problem” of a crew member. NASA recently announced that the medical problem will continue to be observed. It is expected that this will be fine again before the planned start. There was no further information on this. Most recently, Monday was mentioned as the earliest possible start date. For this date, however, there had been concerns about the weather. The main concerns were strong winds in Cape Canaveral and poor weather conditions in the further course of the flight.

Maurer and his fellow astronauts are to be transported to the ISS by a “Crew Dragon” from the private space company SpaceX.

Image: dpa

Return from “Crew 2” priority

NASA has now given priority to the return of the so-called “Crew-2”. The “Crew 2” consists of the French Thomas Pesquet, the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide and the Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur. The four astronauts have spent more than six months in space and will now, contrary to custom, return before the arrival of their replacement.

The “Crew-2” should now – with around 250 kilograms of scientific experiments in their luggage – undock from the ISS at the earliest on Sunday, then fly once around the space station to take photos for possible upcoming repairs, and arrive in the sea off Florida on Monday .

No on-board toilet on the return flight

French astronaut Pesquet said at the press conference that he was not nervous before the return flight. He spoke of a “bittersweet feeling” in view of the imminent return to earth. “We may never come back to see the ISS and it really is a magical place,” said the Frenchman.

The “Crew Dragon” with which the “Crew-2” is at the ISS, however, has a problem: the toilet is broken. The four astronauts therefore each have to fly back to earth wearing a type of diaper. That is of course “suboptimal,” said astronaut McArthur. “But there are a lot of small challenges in space travel and we are ready to get them under control.”

Actually handover from crew to crew planned

A handover between “Crew-2” and “Crew-3” on board the ISS was actually planned. NASA astronaut Kimbrough said at a press conference from space on Friday that this is now failing. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who came to the ISS in April together with cosmonauts Oleg Nowizki and Pyotr Dubrow, will take over the task.

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