The commander of SpaceX’s next crewed flight to the International Space Station shared on Twitter the name of the SpaceX Dragon his crew will fly in this spring. Named “Freedom,” it obviously points towards Russia’s attack on Ukraine and calls back to NASA’s first-ever crewed spacecraft.
SpaceX’s Crew-4 is planning to launch on April 19 on top of a Falcon 9 rocket with a brand new Crew Dragon spacecraft. As is tradition, the first crew gets to name the spacecraft they ride in, dating back to the Mercury Seven of the 1960s. The commander, Kjell Lindgren, said in a tweet:
Crew-4 will fly to the International Space Station in a new Dragon capsule named “Freedom.” The name celebrates a fundamental human right, and the industry and innovation that emanate from the unencumbered human spirit.
Through the Commercial Crew Program, NASA and SpaceX have restored a national capability and we honor the ingenuity and hard work of those involved. Alan Shepard flew on Freedom 7 at the dawn of human spaceflight. We are honored to bring Freedom to a new generation!
The first reason for the name is to celebrate the “fundamental human right.” While there is no way NASA will ever confirm it, emails obtained by CNN state NASA has urged against astronauts saying anything about the conflict. So the name of this spacecraft is probably the closest we will get to NASA’s astronaut corps. coming out against Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Dragon Freedom isn’t the first spacecraft to bear that name. The first spacecraft to ever fly a US astronaut to space bared the name Freedom, Freedom 7 to be specific. In May of 1961, Alan Shepard squeezed into his Mercury spacecraft, a vehicle that is hard to believe is in the same family tree as SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Shepard flew to an altitude of just over 100 miles, officially bringing the United States into the era of human spaceflight.
Sixty-one years later, Lindgren and his three crew members, Robert Hines, Samantha Cristoforetti, and Jessica Watkins, will make the next entry into the list of human spaceflights. There they will conduct research on the ISS, continuing to push humanity forward with groundbreaking discoveries.