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Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Anadolu Agency, Jim Watson/Getty Images

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is slated to head back to the International Space Station next month for his first flight to orbit since 2013.

Why it matters: Hopkins will command the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take him and three other crewmembers — NASA's Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi — to the station as part of the capsule's first crewed, non-test flight to orbit.

What's happening: Hopkins has been training for months with his fellow astronauts.

  • The four crewmembers paid close attention to SpaceX's first crewed flight with NASA's Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley this summer to help make any changes necessary ahead of their flight.
  • But Hopkins and his crewmembers are effectively the first to go through a version of what will be SpaceX's training for astronauts.
  • "Bob and Doug had been working with SpaceX for quite a few years before they launched," Hopkins told me. "They didn't have to sit through the same classes and a number of things that we've gone through."

Between the lines: Hopkins says he's excited to see how the ISS has changed in the years since he's been gone.

  • One thing that's different: NASA is now allowing private companies like Estée Lauder to pay to market their products using the station.
  • While some say that's a misuse of astronaut crew time, Hopkins doesn't necessarily see it that way:
"There have been a lot of people that have looked at this and decided that this is the right way to go, and so our job is to execute that mission as best we can. I trust the system. I trust the people that are building our programs."

What's next: NASA and SpaceX were originally planning on launching the mission on Halloween, but technical concerns about the Falcon 9 rocket forced a delay.

  • Now, NASA is targeting Nov. 14 for Hopkins and his crewmates to take flight from Florida.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

The coming land rush in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Space is the new Wild West. Nations and space companies are racing to come to a consensus on what they can own, mine and take possession of in outer space before competitors stake ground first.

Why it matters: Private companies are building their businesses on sending spacecraft to the Moon, asteroids and other objects in the coming years to eventually extract resources that will be used or sold.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

What to know about the Moon rock in Biden's Oval Office

The Moon rock now in the Oval Office. Photo: NASA

President Joe Biden hasn't revealed much about his space policy priorities yet, but space fans can take heart that space is on his mind, thanks to an Apollo Moon rock that now decorates the Oval Office.

Why it matters: The Moon rock — loaned to the White House by NASA — is on display "in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach," according to a statement from NASA.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."