Crew-3 countdown: NASA astronauts arrive at Kennedy Space Center ahead of liftoff

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch four astronauts to the space station on Oct. 31 at 2:21 a.m. ET.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.-- The next group of astronauts to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket arrived Wednesday, kicking off the final days before their lift-off to the International Space Station on a six-month mission.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, flew from Houston to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, touching down on the former space shuttle runway.

Wearing blue astronaut jumpsuits, the group, known as the Crew-3 mission, spoke to reporters about their upcoming launch.

"We are really excited to hit the deck here at KSC," Barron, Crew-3 mission specialist, said. "I think for all of us, especially the rookies here, it feels really surreal like we don't really believe we are going to space."

Maurer, 51, Chari, and Barron are first-time space flyers. Barron, 34, and Chari are also assigned to NASA's upcoming moon missions known as the Artemis program. 

Chari, 44, is the Crew-3 mission commander. It's the first time NASA picked a rookie astronaut part of the commercial crew program to the position.

"This is typically the time in the Air Force we call stepping to the jet. You are done with the briefing, done with the training, and now you are actually stepping out to the aircraft and, in this case, the spacecraft and actually putting feet and boots on the ground at the place where the vehicle is at," Chari said moments after walking down the aircraft steps.

With his upcoming SpaceX flight, Marshburn will add the third spacecraft to his experiences. He has previously flown on both NASA's space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The 61-year-old physician will serve as the mission pilot. The Crew Dragon is fully automated, but Marshburn will take manual control if needed during their flight.

SpaceX and NASA are targeting Sunday, Oct. 31 at 2:21 a.m. ET for the Falcon 9 rocket launch to the space station. The astronauts will spend the next few days at Kennedy Space Center conducting a launch dress rehearsal and preparing for their ride to space.

This launch will mark the fourth overall NASA astronaut mission for SpaceX, and the fifth time Elon Musk's company will launch people from Florida. Last month, four citizens launched from Florida on the Inspiration4 mission, completing a three-day Crew Dragon spaceflight orbiting Earth, marking a first for an all-civilian crew.

Unlike the Inpsiration4 mission, which didn't dock at the ISS, the Crew-3 launch will have an instantaneous launch window to catch up with the space station for docking.

The weather on Florida's east coast is looking favorable for the overnight Halloween launch. The 45th Weather Squadron is forecasting an 80% chance weather doesn't prevent the Falcon 9 launch. 

A system pushing severe weather into Central Florida ahead of a cold front is expected to move past Cape Canaveral by Friday. 

"As the low gets further away from Florida, drier conditions will filter in, leading to favorable launch conditions for the initial launch opportunity," according to the 45th's forecast. 

According to the forecast, some cloud cover and light rain are the only potential threats for the launch window as of Thursday morning, but it's not a significant concern.