(NewsNation) — After being delayed last week because of Hurricane Ian, four astronauts are now on their way to the International Space Station for half a year on NASA’s latest SpaceX Crew-5 mission.
Carrying NASA astronauts commander Nicole Mann and pilot Josh Cassada, as well as two mission specialists, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, the launch was at noon ET Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex in Florida.
“I hope with this launch we will brighten up the skies over Florida a little bit for everyone,” Wakata said.
As they reached orbit, Mann said the astronauts had a smooth ride uphill.
“Awesome,” Mann said. “You’ve got three rookies who are pretty happy to be floating in space right now.”
The SpaceX launch vehicle consists of a Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Dragon spacecraft, called Endurance according to Reuters, and is scheduled to dock at the space station at 4:57 p.m. ET Thursday. They won’t return to Earth until March 2023.
NPR reports the four astronauts are traveling to the International Space Station for a six-month mission, during which they plan on conducting more than 200 experiments, including spacewalks and 3D-printing human tissue.
Mann is the first Native American woman to go to space, according to NPR. John Herrington was the first Native American man to walk in space in 2002.
“I think it’s really great to celebrate those and to communicate that, especially to the younger generation, right? These young women, maybe Natives, maybe people from different backgrounds that realized that they have these opportunities, and potentially these barriers that used to be there are starting to be broken down,” Mann told NPR. “Hopefully that will inspire that younger generation.”
Kikina marked another milestone for the trip: she was the first Russian cosmonaut to rocket from the U.S. in 20 years. Over the summer, the space agencies agreed to swap seats on their flights to ensure the continuous U.S. and Russian presence aboard the 260-mile-high outpost, even with global hostilities over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
This mission is SpaceX’s fifth operational crew launch for NASA, CNBC reported, and will bring the number of astronauts SpaceX has launched on both government and private missions to 30.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has now launched eight crews since 2020, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.