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Astronauts, cosmonaut arrive at Kennedy Space Center ahead of NASA, SpaceX Crew-8 launch


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Dec 13, 2023
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The four members of the SpaceX Crew-8 mission pose in front of the NASA Gulfstream plane at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility. (Left to right) Roscosmos Cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin and NASA Astronauts Jeanette Epps, Matthew Dominick and Michael Barratt. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

Set against a bright, blue Florida skyline, the three astronauts and one cosmonaut who make up the SpaceX Crew-8 mission touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Sunday afternoon.

The crew’s Gulfstream cruised in for a landing at the Space Florida Launch and Landing Facility at about 1:45 p.m. (1845 UTC). They were greeted on the tarmac by, Jennifer Kunz, a KSC Associate Director, and Dana Hutcherson, Deputy Director Commercial Crew.

“Coming out here to the Cape, every time, I’m a kid in a candy store,” said Matthew Dominick, a NASA astronaut and the commander of the Crew-8 mission.

While the upcoming mission will be the first spaceflight for Dominick, he worked for NASA for seven years leading up to his first launch.

“It’s an incredible time to be involved in spaceflight. Who would’ve though five or six years ago that this would be the fifth flight of Endeavour that we get to go on? Who would’ve though five or six years ago that the competition for launch that the competition for launch or the constraint to launch would be a launch pad?” Dominick said, referring to the recent launch of the IM-1 robotic mission to the Moon. “We delayed our launch a few days because there’s stiff competition to get out there to 39A. It’s not a rocket constraint, it’s a pad constraint.”

He’s leading a trio that include two additional NASA astronauts, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonaut, Alexander Grebenkin. They will launch to the orbiting outpost no earlier than Friday, March 1 at 12:04 a.m. EST (0504 UTC).

Barratt is returning to launch at KSC for the first time since his final flight as a member of STS-133 in 2011. He said it’s remarkable to be back now in the era of the Commercial Crew Program and be preparing to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and inside a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“The fact that this spaceport is so busy, so vibrant is just an amazing thing,” Barratt said. “It’s just an absolute pleasure to see Kennedy Space Center being the thriving spaceport that it is. We’re very honored to be a part of that. I cannot wait to get back to that magnificent station, I can’t wait to fly this new spaceship and I can’t wait to to fly with this crew.”

Like Dominick and Grebenkin, Epps will be making her first trip to space on this mission. She’s experienced pivots from flying on a Russian Soyuz to then Boeing Starliner and finally to her current assignment on Crew-8.

“It’s overwhelming to me how many people contributed to this. So, I just want to thank everyone who’s been involved,” Epps said. “I’m very grateful for this flight. I’ve trained for Soyuz, I’ve trained for Boeing, I’ve trained for a lot of vehicles, but I’m honored to fly with this crew on the Dragon Endeavour.”

Endeavor will be making its 5th flight into space on this mission, marking its position as the flight leader in the SpaceX spacecraft fleet. Five missions is the most that NASA has certified a Dragon to fly to date.

A new Dragon spacecraft is expected to enter the fleet sometime in 2024.

A post-Flight Readiness Review press conference is set for no earlier than 7 p.m. EST (0000 UTC) Sunday evening. The story will be updated with additional information following that.
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