Fab Fours Often Make History — Like Crew-1
Slated for launch on Nov. 14, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will be the first crew rotational flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the International Space Station. Comprising the history-making crew are NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.
This quartet will make the journey to station aboard Resilience, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft named to highlight the dedication of the teams involved with the mission who have demonstrated that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve.
And while this group of four will establish a sustainable pattern of American rockets and American spacecraft opening up space from American soil, this group is just the beginning of four-person crews who will make their mark in microgravity and, later, other worlds.
Before Crew-1 …
There was another crew of four from NASA who marked the emotional end of an era: STS-135.
The STS-135 crew members pause for a final photograph in front of Space Shuttle Atlantis after an employee appreciation event held at Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seen here are Commander Chris Ferguson (left), Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialist Rex Walheim. Credits: NASA
When Space Shuttle Atlantis launched in July 2011 on the STS-135 mission carrying the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module and delivering a stockpile of supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station, it was the orbiter's final flight. Chris Ferguson commanded the mission and Doug Hurley was its pilot. (Hurley recently made history for Commercial Crew with Robert Behnken during the Demo-2 test flight.) Also aboard were Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus.
The final chapter in the space shuttle’s storied 30-year history heralds a new dawn with Artemis, NASA’s mission to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. And, as with Crew-1, the agency’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.
Four is foundational
When you pause to consider the “fours” often found in the world around us, the makeup of Crew-1 could almost be considered … cosmic.
We enjoy four seasons. We rely on four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west). In cards, there are four suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades). In sports, there’s often a flurry of competition to arrive to a Final Four, like with NCAA Basketball.
And, as Mike Hopkins, commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Crew-1 mission commander noted recently during Houston, We Have a Podcast Episode 166, “It's funny — I go back to my days at the University of Illinois when I was playing football. … There's a lot of similarities, believe it or not, between playing sports like that and doing something like this, where you're launching in the space. … You spend months and years training and practicing for that moment when you get on the field, when you take the court, and when you walk out to the launch pad to that rocket. And so, there's a lot of similarities between those events.”
And, if you were a child of the 70s and 80s (and even now), you’ll recall the game Connect Four, trademarked by Milton Bradley in February 1974.
Crew-1, like all human spaceflight crews before them, will undoubtedly rely on the special connections they have formed with each other during their last few years of intensive training as they embark on their trendsetting mission.
Other famous fours
Let’s not forget the many famous fours found in pop culture, who have shown that four is not only foundational, but unforgettable.
On the musical front, The Beatles, KISS, Four Tops, The Monkeys, Led Zepplin, Boys II Men, and countless others.
From left, The Beatles, KISS, and Four Tops.
On screens big and small, many will no doubt recall the Golden Girls, South Park kids, Ghostbusters, The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teletubbies, and Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj from the Big Bang Theory.
From left, the Golden Girls, The Wizard of Oz, and Ghostbusters movie.
Crew-1 Mission Specialist Shannon Walker, soon-to-be flight engineer on Expedition 64 when aboard station, had always wanted to be an astronaut.
“I just turned 4 when we first landed on the Moon,” Walker said. “And I have very distinct memory of my parents taking me and my older sister out into the backyard. And the Moon was rising over our house, and they pointed up there and said, 'We have people there.' And even at 4, I thought that just sounded like the best idea ever.”
We could not have said it any better, really.
And while these four crew members will not be etched on the side of a mountain, like with Mt. Rushmore, their faces will be etched in our memories as they break the bonds of gravity to soon break records for the amount of hours dedicated strictly to science aboard the world’s only laboratory in low-Earth orbit.
Meet the crew
These four crew members will go on the first operational mission to the orbiting laboratory under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, following the agency’s certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system.
Check out Crew-1 on Flickr!
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts participate in crew equipment interface testing at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Sept. 24, 2020.