Four astronauts are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on Sunday (Nov. 15) for the first operational commercial crew flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, a mission called Crew-1.
Before you tune into the live coverage on Space.com and NASA TV, we thought you’d like to get to know the three spaceflyers from NASA — Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins — and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Here are mini-biographies of each of the people climbing onto the SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship.
Mike Hopkins (NASA)
(Image credit: NASA)
Hopkins (who is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force) was selected as an astronaut in 2009. His first mission in space was Expedition 37/38 from 2013-14. He has spent 166 days in space and accumulated 12 hours and 58 minutes of spacewalking experience, according to NASA.
Prior to NASA, Hopkins tested advanced space system technologies and several aircraft (C-17 and C-30 airplanes, for example). His duties and education took him to locations such as Cold Lake, Alberta and Parma, Italy. In the year before NASA picked him as an astronaut, Hopkins served as special assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Hopkins participated in the “Train Like an Astronaut” campaign prior to and during his first flight, where NASA and Hopkins together demonstrated astronaut fitness to the public. “Fitness has something I’ve been very passionate about my whole life,” Hopkins told Space.com in 2013, prior to his flight.
“It’s just been a part of my daily routine, if you will. I’m hoping i can encourage kids, even adults, people of all ages to get out and exercise and at the same time, if we can pique their interest in spaceflight as well, that’s a double bonus there.”
Victor Glover (NASA)
(Image credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA)
Glover, who is also a commander in the U.S. Navy, was selected as an astronaut in 2013. One of the most memorable parts of his selection process he spoke about was composing a limerick, which he used to joke about medical procedures that astronauts must undergo for spaceflight. (Sample lines: “This is all dizzying to me / Because I gave so much blood and pee.”)
Crew-1 will be Glover’s first spaceflight, but he is a highly experienced pilot. NASA says he has accumulated more than 3,000 flight hours in 40 aircraft. He also has landed on carrier ships 400 times and participated in 24 combat missions. Glover’s experience includes serving as a test pilot and just before being selected by NASA, he was a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate.
Earlier this year, Glover — who is Black — spoke out on social media about the need not to “stick to space” when speaking about racial injustice. “Remember who is doing space. People are,” he wrote on June 6. 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.”
Soichi Noguchi (JAXA)
(Image credit: NASA)
Noguchi, who is also a Ph.D., has flown twice in space. He was selected as an astronaut candidate by the National Space Development Agency of Japan in May 1996, according to JAXA. (NASDA was a predecessor entity to JAXA.)
Noguchi’s first mission was the STS-114 “return to flight” space shuttle mission in 2005, which took place after the fatal Columbia disaster in 2003. Noguchi performed three spacewalks during his shuttle mission, which lasted nearly two weeks in space. He spent an additional 163 days in space during Expedition 22/23 in 2009-10, during which he met up with fellow Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki from shuttle mission STS-131. It was the first time two Japanese astronauts worked together in space. Noguchi also participated in the underwater SEATEST II (Space Environment Analog for Testing EVA Systems and Training) in 2013.
In a 2010 interview with NASA, Noguchi said both science fiction and science fact inspired his decision to become an astronaut. “Well, I really liked all the rockets and spacecraft and space adventures when I was in childhood. I watched all the movies like ‘Star Wars,’ or the ‘Star Treks’, or Japanese anime when themed with the space adventure,” he said.
“When I was a high school freshman I saw the [first] space shuttle, STS-1, go up on television and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a great career, great profession; I wonder if I can be someday like a space traveler,’ ” he continued. “At that time, we [didn’t] have any Japanese manned space program, there was no Japanese astronaut. I was just pursuing a career for space engineering and space science, and was just lucky enough to be selected as one of the Japanese astronaut candidates.”
Shannon Walker (NASA)
(Image credit: NASA)
Walker, a Ph.D., worked for NASA’s spaceflight program for nearly 20 years before being selected as an astronaut in 2004, according to the agency. Her first job after college in 1987 was working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a robotics flight controller during the space shuttle program. Her first mission to space was in 2010, during Expedition 24/25, where Walker spent 163 days in space.
Walker’s experience prior to being selected as an astronaut includes working several space shuttle missions, studying the solar wind interaction with Venus’ atmosphere during leave as a graduate student, and taking on several roles at NASA related to the International Space Station (including time in Moscow, Russia). Walker commanded the underwater NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 15 mission to study potential mission operations on asteroids.
Walker’s mission highlights in 2010 included joining the largest contingent of women (four females) in space at the same time, flying pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart’s watch in space, and commenting on viewing the power of Hurricane Earl from orbit during observations NASA astronauts do to help weather forecasters. “[Earl] looks pretty from up here,” said American astronaut Shannon Walker in a televised interview at the time. “But we know there’s a lot of potential destruction associated with it, underneath the clouds, that we can’t see.”
You can watch SpaceX’s Crew-1 launch for NASA live here at Space.com on Sunday beginning at 3:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT).
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.