A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket spacecraft onboard is seen at sunset on the launch pad in Florida. NASA/AP
Liftoff is planned for 6:11 am Eastern Time (1011 GMT) on April 22, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The mission, called Crew-2, involves US astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s Akihiko Hoshide, and the European Space Agency (ESA)'s Thomas Pesquet.
All have flown to space previously.
ESA has dubbed the mission "Alpha" after the star Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own.
This handout photo shows (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide prepare to depart during a dress rehearsal prior to the Crew-2 mission launch, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA/AFP
Elon Musk's SpaceX has firmly established itself as NASA's favoured transportation provider as the agency waits on Boeing's troubled Starliner capsule to carry out key tests.
SpaceX's first crewed test flight in May 2020 ended nine years of American reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the ISS following the demise of the Space Shuttle program.
Thursday's flight will reuse the booster rocket used in the Crew-1 mission — a first — and the Crew Dragon capsule will be the same as that used in the test mission.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the mission, Pesquet said his participation underscored Europe's commitment to space flight.
SpaceX has firmly established itself as NASA's favoured transportation provider.
"It means a lot for us as an agency because we've been part of the ISS program for 20 years now and we intend to be part of what's coming next," said the Frenchman, referring to future partnerships including the Artemis program to the Moon.
Pesquet told AFP he was excited to ride in the futuristic and fully autonomous Crew Dragon, which was markedly different from the Russian Soyuz spaceship he had previously flown.
"The way it's laid out, it's just fantastic, you know all the time what's going on," he said.
"On Soyuz, it's unbelievably reliable, but you had to make sense of all that information that was... disseminated at every corner of the control panel, with digital gauges, analog gauges, and you had to make sense of this and that's why the training was much longer."
Thursday's flight will reuse the booster rocket used in the Crew-1 mission.
The four astronauts will overlap for a few days with the crew of Crew-1 before that team returns from its six-month mission.
With three Russians on board, the station is set to become unusually crowded, accommodating no fewer than 11 people.
Pesquet and Hoshide planned to liven up the cuisine with national dishes from their home countries.
Pesquet for his part divulged one of the meals was crepe suzette — a quintessential French dessert.
During their mission, the crew will be tasked with carrying out numerous scientific experiments, with Pesquet singling out one examining the effects of weightlessness on brain organoids -- mini brains created using stem cell technology -- as a favorite.
Scientists hope this research can eventually help space agencies prepare for distance space missions which will expose crews to the rigors of space for long periods of time, and even help fight brain disease here on Earth.
"It really sounds like science fiction to me," joked the aerospace engineer.
Another important element of the mission is upgrading the station's solar power system by installing new compact panels that roll open like a huge yoga mat.
Crew-2's launch day coincides with Earth Day, and by the time the crew returns they will have also contributed to environmental research by taking 1.5 million images of phenomena like artificial lighting at night, algal blooms, and the breakdown of Antarctic ice shelves.
Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum made a phone call to Emirati astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi before they started their 15-day quarantine period ahead of the launch of their mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
"We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” SpaceX's Mission Control radioed moments after splashdown. "For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer programme, you've earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”
"We'll take those miles,” said spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins. "Are they transferrable?” SpaceX replied that the astronauts would have to check with the company's
With just 10 days left before the much-anticipated launch of the multinational mission to ISS, Emirati astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi are limbering up, in right earnest, for the groundbreaking event.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched in support of Palestinians on Saturday in major European cities including London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris.
The big winner was from Egypt, Asmaa Al Awani, who won the grand prize, a brand-new BMW car, while 5 shoppers won shopping worth Dhs5,000, 10 winners won Dhs2,500 shopping vouchers, and 10 lucky shoppers won a cash prize worth Dhs1,000 for each.
Cases have fallen steadily in some Indian states hit by an initial surge in infections, such as the richest state of Maharashtra and the capital New Delhi, after they imposed stringent lockdowns. Testing rates also at their lowest since Sunday.
The NCOC late last month announced a new set of restrictions including a blanket ban on tourism and inter-provincial transport in an attempt to contain a further rise in already mounting coronavirus cases under the "Stay Home, Stay Safe” strategy.