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The Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Japan's Soichi Noguchi are on their way to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The crewed launch marks the second time SpaceX has launched people to orbit for NASA and the mission is expected to be the first of many regular flights like this to the space station.

Details: The Falcon 9 carrying the four crewmembers took flight at 7:27 p.m. ET and the Crew Dragon capsule is expected to dock with the space station Monday night.

  • During their flight to the station, Hopkins, Walker, Glover and Noguchi are planning on testing out what kind of choreography is needed to make sure that everyone is comfortable during their trip to the station.
  • When astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew on the Crew Dragon for SpaceX's first crewed flight, there was plenty of room in the capsule because only two of them were flying, this time around, space will be at a premium.
  • The four crewmembers will stay onboard the space station for about six months before heading back home.

Of note: NASA tweeted late Sunday that engineers encountered an issue with heaters used to keep thruster propellant lines at a regular temperature.

Between the lines: All four of the astronauts were in quarantine ahead of launch to ensure they did not catch COVID-19 or another infection before heading up to the station.

The big picture: The Crew Dragon is the first American-made spacecraft able to bring astronauts to orbit since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

  • Until this summer's crewed SpaceX launch, NASA was solely reliant on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to bring their people to and from the space station.
  • Boeing is also working to develop its own crewed capsule, called the Starliner, that is expected to fly its first crewed mission in the next year or so.

This article has been updated with details on the propellant heaters issue.

Go deeper

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.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.