Space traffic experts tracked two pieces of orbital garbage that appeared to be careening toward each other on Thursday night: a defunct Soviet satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket booster. Ultimately, the two objects narrowly missed each other, according to private space-tracking company LeoLabs.
It’ll be called “Resilience.”
The team is preparing for a historic step forward in the US space program: Their mission, dubbed Crew-1, will mark the first fully operational mission for a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. And it’ll be the first of what NASA hopes will be many more to come, allowing the agency to make full use of the International Space Station and drastically increase the number of science experiments able to be carried out on the multibillion-dollar orbiting laboratory.
“If you look at the definition of resilience, that means functioning well in times of stress or overcoming challenging or stressful events. And I think that all of us agree that 2020 has certainly been a challenging year — a global pandemic, economic hardships, civil unrest, isolation,” NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who will serve as spacecraft commander for the mission, said during a press event Tuesday.
He added that the name was chosen to honor the the SpaceX and NASA teams who worked through the Covid-19 pandemic to prepare the spacecraft for their mission. “And, quite frankly, it’s in honor of our families, of our colleagues, of our fellow citizens, of our international partners and our leaders that have all shown that same quality, those same characteristics,” Hopkins said.
The crew for the upcoming missions also includes NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Victor Glover, who will become the first Black person to serve as a full-time crew member on the two-decade-old International Space Station, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan’s JAXA space agency and veteran of NASA Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz missions.
The four-person team is expected to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:40 am ET on October 31. It’ll be SpaceX’s second-ever crewed mission and the second to launch from the United States since NASA’s Space Shuttle program retired nine years ago.
The first Crew Dragon to launch humans, which was still considered a test mission, took off in May — the same week that protests against racial injustice and police brutality began sweeping the nation.
Some on social media also criticized journalists and astronauts who spoke out about the broader issues, deeming it a distraction. Glover replied to one such criticism, saying, “Remember who is doing space. People are,” he wrote, adding “we will understand and overcome racism and bigotry so we can safely and together do space.”
But the earthly problems, of course, have not disappeared, Glover noted in an interview with CNN Business’ Rachel Crane on Tuesday.
“I am not immune to the things going on in the world right now — from the physical insecurity that many people are feeling to the economic insecurity,” he said. “I will say this: The overriding feeling that I have is that I want to go up there and do my job well and then come back and tell a great story about a great mission and a great team so that people have something to look up to and look forward to.”
Hopkins added during the media event that the crew’s mission patch is also intended to convey the group’s message. It’s noticeably different from the patch that was debuted for the SpaceX-NASA mission that launched in May. There is no American flag. The astronauts’ names are not embroidered on the patch’s outer edge.
“It is not just a connection for the four of us,” he said. “We feel like it is a connection with all of you, to everybody. We hope that it brings a smile to your face and we hope that it provides something positive to your life.”