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Moving day as space station prepares for historic arrival of Starliner crew

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It was moving day today at the International Space Station.

But it was unlike any moving day experienced here on Earth.

With the historic visit of the Boeing Starliner coming next week, the SpaceX Crew-8 crew members relocated the Dragon spacecraft to another port at the space station.

NASA astronauts Michael BarrattMatthew Dominick, and Jeannette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin undocked the Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, from the forward-facing port of the station’s Harmony module to the zenith port. The move frees up the forward port for Starliner to autonomously dock to during NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test. 

Monday’s launch of the Starliner is the first crewed mission of the new spacecraft. It’s also the first human launch aboard a Decatur-built United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are the first crew to launch aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. (NASA/Frank Michaux Photo)

“We’ve been through training and we have our fingerprints on every single procedure that exists for this spacecraft,” said astronaut Butch Wilmore. “We’re fully trained in all aspects of Starliner.”

Wilmore and Suni Williams held a virtual question and answer session with media Wednesday inside the Astronaut Crew Quarters at the Kennedy Space Center. Wilmore and Williams have quarantined inside the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building since they arrived at the Florida spaceport last week.  

The Operations and Checkout Building dates back to the Apollo program and was used for space shuttle program missions. Located on the third floor, the crew quarters consists of 23 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. The area also includes the suitup room, where teams help astronauts into their spacesuits before they exit the building and enter a vehicle to take them to the launch pad.

After Monday’s launch, the astronauts will spend about a week at the orbiting laboratory before the capsule makes a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the southwestern United States. Liftoff is scheduled for 9:34 p.m. CDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“We feel very safe and very comfortable when this spacecraft flies,” said Williams. “This is where we’re supposed to be.”

After completion of the mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station. 

The Starliner capsule, with a diameter of 15 feet and the capability to steer automatically or manually, will carry four astronauts, or a mix of crew and cargo, for NASA missions to low Earth orbit. 

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