NASA's Crew-3 astronauts Matthias Maurer (L-R), Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron pose for a portrait during preflight training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., in June. Photo courtesy of SpaceX
ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Three astronauts will fly to space for the first time along with a veteran crewmate on his third spaceflight when SpaceX launches NASA's Crew-3 mission, scheduled Oct. 30, to the International Space Station.
The astronauts announced the name of their brand new Crew Dragon spacecraft -- Endurance -- in a press conference Thursday at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The name is "a tribute to the tenacity of human spirit, as we push humans and machines farther than we ever have ... to extended stays for low earth orbit ... and knowing that we'll continue our exploration to go even farther," crew commander Raja Chari said.
"It's also a nod to the fact that the teams ... that got us here have endured through a pandemic."
The mission, to lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will carry Chari, 44, and pilot Thomas Mashburn, 61, who has traveled to space for NASA on a space shuttle and on a Russian Soyuz capsule.
Matthias Maurer, 51, of the European Space Agency, and NASA's Kayla Barron, 34, round out the crew.
The astronauts are expected to spend about six months in space, performing science experiments in microgravity and maintenance on space station.
Scheduled during that time, in December, is the arrival of two Japanese space tourists on a Russian Soyuz rocket.
Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and production assistant Yozo Hirano plan to spend 12 days in space on a paid mission arranged through Virginia-based Space Adventures.
Chari said he welcomes that mission as further expansion of commercial activity in space.
"We've talked for a really long time at NASA and as a nation, as a world, about the idea of making low-Earth orbit accessible," Chari said. "One of the coolest things we're going to do is see that happen with our own eyes, and see a private mission come to the space station.
Crew-3 will be the fifth crewed mission for SpaceX, including a demonstration flight that carried two astronauts to the space station in 2020.
The new capsule that will carry them includes new features, such as a software change to improve communications during radiation exposure while docked at the space station, new cleaning capability to remove accumulated dust or debris and improved automation during re-entry, according to NASA.
SpaceX also fixed a loose connection in the on-board toilet system that caused minor problems during the Inspiration-4 orbital mission that carried a civilian crew, the company said.
Experiencing his third type of spacecraft will be a treat, Mashburn said.
"There's a lot of innovation in the Dragon," he said. "It's just a beautiful spacecraft in terms of human factors and the automation."
He said he feels blessed to provide experience to the younger crew members, "but otherwise I'll stay out of their way, because they're incredibly successful and capable as it is."
NASA's plan to decommission the space station in eight to 10 years is on the minds of all astronauts, Barron said. In the meantime, she is looking forward to commercial space stations that the space agency plans to support.
"I think that's something we've started to wrap our heads around as we think about what will happen when we don't have the amazing platform the International Space Station," Barron said.
"We can imagine a world where we continue to visit those future space stations as NASA astronauts to do science and also to train for future exploration."
Chari and Barron are part of the Artemis team at NASA preparing for planned lunar missions.
"The Artemis program has really come into focus and become a big part of what we're hoping to do next," Barron said.
Inspiration4, the world's first all-civilian mission to space, safely returns to Earth while splashing down
on the Atlantic Ocean outside of Florida, on September 18, 2021, following their groundbreaking three-day mission. Photo courtesy of SpaceX | License Photo