11 November 2020
Four astronauts arrived at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday to prepare for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
An airplane brought the astronauts to Kennedy from the U.S. space agency's training center in Houston, Texas. The three Americans and one Japanese are set to leave for the ISS Saturday night, if weather conditions permit.
The flight will be the second crew launch for SpaceX, a private company working with NASA to carry astronauts to space. The first SpaceX flight, in May 2020, made history. It was the first time a private company had launched astronauts into Earth's orbit.
SpaceX built and operated the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft that carried two NASA astronauts to the space station. The crew – astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley - returned to Earth in August after a two-month stay.
A Crew Dragon spacecraft – carried by a Falcon 9 rocket - will again transport the astronauts on the next mission. This time, the four astronauts are expected to spend about six months on the ISS.
The crew includes Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker. Also making the trip is Soichi Noguchi of Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Hopkins is a 51-year-old Air Force colonel from Missouri. He will be flying to the space station for his second time. He first traveled to the ISS in 2013 and spent a total of 166 days in space.
Walker is a 55-year-old physicist from Houston. The upcoming flight will be her second trip to the space station. Her first came in 2010, when she spent 163 days in space. Walker's husband – retired NASA astronaut Andrew Thomas – helped build the ISS.
Glover is a 44-year-old Navy commander from Los Angeles. This will be his first space mission. He will be the first African American to move into the ISS for an extended stay.
The 55-year-old Noguchi will be making his third trip to the space station. His longest visit came in 2010, when he spent 161 days on the ISS and served as Flight Engineer. Dragon will be Noguchi's third transportation vehicle for getting to space. In the past, he flew on a U.S. space shuttle and Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.
The astronauts named their Dragon spacecraft Resilience to note the many challenges Americans have faced in 2020. These include the coronavirus health crisis, protests against racial injustice and a difficult presidential campaign season.
"It's been a tough year for everybody for a lot of different reasons," crew commander Mike Hopkins said after arriving in Florida. "We felt like if the name of our vehicle could give a little hope, a little inspiration, put a smile on people's face, then that is definitely what we wanted to do."
SpaceX officials say the company expects to launch seven Dragons over the next 14 months: three to carry astronauts and four for transporting supplies.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and NASA reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
NASA – n. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, America's space agency.
mission – n. an important task, usually involving travel somewhere
resilience – n. strong enough to recover after damage, illness, shock, etc.
challenge – n. something that is difficult to do
inspiration – n. an action or statement that causes someone to want to take action
definitely – adv. without any doubt