Astronauts choose ‘Endurance’ as name for new SpaceX crew capsule

European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer and NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron pose for a photo during training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Credit: SpaceX

The astronauts who will ride SpaceX’s newest Dragon spaceship into orbit later this month said Thursday they named their spacecraft “Endurance” as a tribute to the human spirit and a historic sailing vessel used by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

The new spacecraft, previously known by serial number “Capsule 210,” is scheduled to launch Oct. 30 with three NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency flier heading for the International Space Station.

“We can stop calling it Capsule 210,” said Raja Chari, commander of the mission. “The crew has come up with the name of the vehicle, which is ‘Endurance.'”

Chari, a U.S. Air Force colonel, said the name “speaks to us on a number of levels.”

“First off, it’s just a tribute to the the tenacity of human spirit as we push humans and machines farther than we ever have, going both to stay in extended stays for low earth orbit, opening it up to private companies and private astronauts, and knowing that we’ll continue our exploration to go even farther,” Chari said Thursday in a pre-flight news conference.

He added that the name also honors the SpaceX and NASA teams that built the spacecraft and trained the astronauts who will fly it. Those workers endured through a pandemic, Chari said.

SpaceX’s first two crew-rated Dragon spaceships were named Endeavour and Resilience by the astronauts who first flew on them. Each privately-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft is certified for at least five space missions, and can stay docked at the space station for up to 210 days.

“One of the really cool things about the SpaceX Dragon is we’ll be the first ones to use Endurance, but it won’t be the last time it’s used,” Chari said. “It’s going to be used many times by many missions, and will continue to support long duration spaceflights.”

The name also honors the ship used by Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The three-masted vessel sank in 1915 after being stranded in ice before reaching Antarctica.

“I was a huge fan of reading about the Shackleton voyage,” said Tom Marshburn, the pilot on the next Crew Dragon mission. “It speaks a lot toward exploration, too, even though they didn’t accomplish their goal. And we certainly want to accomplish our goals.

“Still, the crew came back healthy,” Marshburn said. “It was a wonderful example of leadership, and the word itself … We, as a nation, as a spacefaring nation, or any spacefaring nation, and individuals who are involved, have to demonstrate endurance.”

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft arrives at the nternational Space Station in April. Credit: NASA/Mike Hopkins

The Crew-3 mission set for liftoff Oct. 30 is the fifth crew flight on a SpaceX spacecraft, and the third operational crew rotation flight under contract to NASA.

Chari, a first-time space flier and Air Force fighter pilot, commands the mission. Marshburn is set to launch on this third trip to space, following previous launches on a space shuttle and a Russian Soyuz capsule.

Rookie NASA astronaut Kayla Barron and European Space Agency mission specialist Matthias Maurer, who is also making his first trip into space, round out the four-person crew.

Their mission is set for blastoff Oct. 30 at 2:43 a.m. EDT (0643 GMT) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Assuming an on-time launch, their Crew Dragon capsule will glide to an automated docking at the International Space Station early on Oct. 31, beginning a half-year expedition on the complex.

Chari and his crewmates will replace the four-person Crew-2 team of astronauts, who arrived at the space station in April. They are scheduled to return to Earth in early November on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, targeting a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida.

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