KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - The international team of the Crew-2 mission is bringing together astronauts from the US, Europe, and Japan.
The team stepped out from a Gulfstream jet where administrators from NASA, JAXA - the Japanese space agency - and ESA - the European space agency - were there to greet them.
"We are really excited and ready to go," said mission commander Shame Kimbrough.
He will be launching together with Megan McArthur of NASA, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. They'll be launching to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket.
"We come in on the plane over here and got to fly by the pad and see our rocket getting ready to go," McArthur said. "It's just an amazing feeling, I've gotten to do that before and there's nothing like when you look out the window and see a spaceship getting prepared and realize that you're going to be riding on it in a few days."
This is the first mission bringing two international astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.
"It's an honor to be part of this team, looking forward to a great flight and a great mission," Hoshide said.
"NASA and the partners make it seem routine but it's not. We know there's a lot of work that goes into it so we'd like to thank all those people involved," Pesquet added.
The crew is part of a six-month science mission aboard the ISS. They’re set to launch at 6:11 a.m., this Thursday morning.
"Getting to stay in space long-duration is something completely new for me," McArthur said. "I think it's going to be like the difference between visiting a country for a business trip and maybe moving there longer term. So I'm looking forward to seeing what those differences are."
With the world still battling the COVID-19 pandemic, astronauts say they've had to adjust to this new reality.
"It's definitely played into our training," Kimbrough said, "as you might imagine, it's really a testament to the training teams in all the centers around the world that have adapted and been able to train us."
Kimbrough said even simple logistics have been tough.
"Even just getting travel between the different countries has been a challenge but it all worked out," he added.
But Kimbrough said the staff still got the job done despite the pandemic. If anything, he says COVID-19 had forced them to spend more time together, which will help on their six-month mission.
"Spent a lot of time with these folks behind me and we've gotten to be really good friends," he said, "which is only going to play out further on the space station, and that's really only because of the pandemic so there's some silver linings, believe it or not."
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