For the first time since 2011, astronauts launched from American soil are heading to the International Space Station.
Two of the astronauts are American: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur. Akihiko Hoshide is from Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Thomas Pesquet, of France, is from the European Space Agency (ESA).
SpaceX made history at the end of May when it launched NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken toward the ISS on the SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission – the first time astronauts blasted off from American soil since the end of the space shuttle program almost a decade ago.
That SpaceX Crew Dragon flight was the first time a private company, rather than a government, sent astronauts into orbit. They are scheduled to return to Earth on Sunday.
Behnken, who commanded the Demo-2 mission, is married to McArthur, who will pilot the Crew-2 mission. In between, there is also a Crew-1 mission scheduled to launch in late September.
McArthur, who was born in Hawaii but calls California her home state, has one prior trip to space under her belt, according to NASA. She launched with the space shuttle Atlantis on a mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.
Kimbrough, a retired Army colonel born in Texas and raised in Atlanta, will be the mission’s spacecraft commander. It will be his third trip to space and second long-term stay aboard the space station. He has already logged 189 days in space and has blasted off aboard both the retired space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and a Russian Soyuz rocket in 2016.
The Crew-2 mission will be the third spaceflight for Hoshide, who was part of the STS-124 mission aboard the Discovery in 2008 and whose most recent launch included a 124-day stay aboard the ISS in 2012.
Pesquet, the youngest member of the crew at age 42, is also the only one never to have taken part on a mission under the now-retired U.S. space shuttle program. But he’s already spent 196 days in space.
The Crew-2 astronauts are expected to stay aboard the space station for about six months alongside three other crew members who will arrive separately on a Russian Soyuz. That makes for a seven-person crew, rather than the usual six, which NASA said will allow twice as much research to be performed during their stay.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this report.