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NASA Flight Crew On SpaceX Rocket Includes 1st Black Astronaut To Live Aboard International Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL — Four astronauts lifted off Sunday night from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX rocket bound for the International Space Station.

Liftoff occurred right on schedule at 7:27 p.m., despite concerns about weather earlier in the day. NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi reached orbit after a 12-minute ride to space.

The crewed flight is the second for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and the first since NASA officially certified the small spacecraft to carry people. The Dragon’s first crewed flight took place in May, when Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken launched on a jaunt to the station. They stayed for roughly two months before returning to earth and splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico in early August.

That flight was the first launch of American astronauts from American soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Following the shuttle’s retirement, NASA spent the better part of a decade paying the Russian space agency for seats aboard its Soyuz rockets. It hopes the Dragon can end that dependence by providing an American-made system to get astronauts into low earth orbit. This mission, known as “Crew-1,” is supposed to be the first of many routine flights that will ferry astronauts to and from the station.

Navy Commander Victor Glover is seen here with his wife Dionna of 18 years and their four daughters #NASA #BLACKEXCELLENCE

Navy commander and test pilot Glover is now the first Black astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station. He will spend about six months aboard there.

Glover is not the first African American to visit the space station, but previous members were parts of space shuttle crews who only made brief stays at the center. 

A native of Southern California, Glover is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University and earned three master’s degrees — in in-flight test engineering, systems engineering and military operational art and science — in three years.

NASA released a short video to Twitter celebrating Glover’s historic assignment. 

Glover has been vocal about the significance of his mission, as well as those of other African Americans who have played a role in space exploration. NASA has also been diligent in highlighting “Hidden Figures to Modern Figures” within the history of the organization. The research led to the successful, Academy Award-winning 2016 film, Hidden Figures

Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first Black American in space in 1983 aboard the space shuttle Challenger. The second, Ron McNair, died three years later when the shuttle exploded alongside six other astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe, who was the first teacher in space. 

Mae Jemison became the first Black woman in space aboard the shuttle Endeavor in 1992.

This summer, Glover spoke out about the protests for racial justice that flooded American streets. One social media user asked if he should not just “stick to space.” 

“Actually no,” he replied. “Remember who is doing space. People are. As we address extreme weather and pandemic disease, we will understand and overcome racism and bigotry so we can safely and together do space. Thanks for asking.”

In a new press video from NASA, Glover slipped in a dig at President Donald Trumpwho is refusing to concede in the 2020 presidential election.

“You know, unlike the election — that is in the past or receding in the past — this mission is still ahead of me.” he said. “So, let’s get there, and I’ll talk to you after I get on board.”

Glover noted that his mission is “something to be celebrated once we accomplish it, and I am honored to be in this position and to be a part of this great and experienced crew.” 

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