‘We’re Living Einstein’s Happiest Thought’ In SpaceX Dragon Says NASA Astronaut

Ramish Zafar
The SpaceX Falcon 9 as it blasts off to SpaceX with Crew-5 on board the Dragon spacecraft earlier today. Image: NASA

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Astronauts part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Crew-5 mission paid homage to the renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein during the start of their 29-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS) today. The Crew-5 mission took to the skies at noon Eastern Time, and the astronauts revealed their zero-g indicator soon after their spaceship separated from SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and its second-stage Merlin engine. A zero-g indicator is part of a tradition that sees astronauts pick an object of their choosing to demonstrate that they have escaped most of Earth's gravity as part of their journey to the ISS.

NASA Astronaut Pays Homage To Albert Einstein During Trip To ISS

The Crew-5 mission marks several firsts for both NASA and SpaceX. It is the first time a female astronaut has commanded a SpaceX crewed mission and the first time a Russian cosmonaut is part of a SpaceX crew to the ISS.

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NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada are the Crew Dragon's Commander and Pilot, respectively. They are joined by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakada and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina as mission specialists. Except for Wakada, who has flown to space four times, with all trips as part of the Space Shuttle program, all other astronauts are making their way out of Earth for the first time.

Another first for the Crew 5 mission is their choice of a toy Albert Einstein figure as their zero-g indicator is the first time a scientist has also made its way to the Crew Dragon during the journey to space. The crew revealed their choice roughly half an hour after liftoff and after completing the first phase of their mission as the Crew Dragon's hatch opened, and it separated from the Falcon 9's second stage.

The Crew-5 members from the bottom left are Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, and Nicole Mann, with their Albert Einstein zero-g indicator at the top right. Image: NASA TV

Speaking on their behalf, and as part of the first communication from the crew after liftoff, astronaut Cassada explained that Einstein was pivotal in an understanding of objects floating in gravity and that what they were experiencing was, in fact, his thoughts.

He described his crew's thought process behind their zero-g indicator choice by outlining:

A couple of years after he'd come up with his groundbreaking theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein in his mind still had a couple of loose ends to tie up. While he was sitting in the patent office, because he wasn't famous yet, definitely should have been, he had [BLACKOUT] the happiest thought of his entire life. That thought was a person in free fall can feel their own weight. That thought, along with some others that we've built upon, led to general relativity and our understanding of gravitation and curvature of space-time. What we're experiencing is Einstein's happiest thought, continuously, The International Space Station has been doing [IT] for over twenty years.

For us on Crew 5, we call this guy our freefall indicator. We're here to tell you that there's plenty of gravity up here. In fact that's what keeping us in orbit right now, and preventing this trip on a Crew Dragon from being a one way trip. A little bit like life. We live in the same world, we live in the same universe. Sometimes we experience it in a very different way from our neighbors. We can all keep that in mind and hopefully we can call continue to do absolutely amazing things and do it together.

The Crew-5 is set to arrive at the ISS at 4:57 p.m. ET tomorrow after a 29-hour-long journey. Following this, the Crew-4 will return from the ISS to complete their five-and-a-half-month-long mission to the ISS.

For more astronaut thoughts on flying onboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon, do check out:

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