After a difficult two months in space, the first two NASA astronauts to visit the International Space Station in a commercial vehicle are ready to return to Earth – if the weather cooperates.
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived at the International Space Station on May 31, the day after they became the first astronauts to launch from Florida trapped in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. This weekend, however, they have to deal with one of the most challenging aspects of the mission: leaving the space station, spending hours inside the same capsule, parachuting the Earth’s atmosphere, and splashing down off the coast of Florida.
“It̵7;s just time to go try and find out how it goes,” Hurley said during a press conference held Friday (July 31) with his colleagues in orbit during the last full day at the space station.
Hurley and Behnken are currently scheduled to saturate on Saturday (August 1) for the Dragon crew capsules and on Sunday (August 2) to spray down. Their initial destination is in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of the Florida city of Florida, NASA officials said.
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The spraying procedure indicates the last obstacle of the duo’s mission, dubbed Demo 2and indicates the final test of the commercial SpaceX crew system. After a safe return, the company should have an overview of the start of regular missions to the circulating laboratory.
Every step of the Demo-2 mission was evaluation of a new spacecraftand management Behnken and Hurley and NASA emphasized during the mission that this was a test flight. The task of the astronauts was to check all aspects of the vehicle and ensure that they were ready for normal use by crew members. However, it also means that the guinea pigs were of the same species during the mission, and this also applies to their return, although the astronauts said they were not surprised.
“As we approach, I think we’re focusing more and more on our preparations to be prepared for spraying activities,” Behnken said. “I still don’t feel nervous.”
American astronauts returning from space have been touching the ground for decades, either in runways such as those performed by NASA spacecraft or in parachute landing, as Russian Soyuz capsules do. The last American crew to return to the ocean did so 45 years ago, at the end of the year Apollo-Soyuz test project a mission in which astronauts met Soviet Soviet astronauts in orbit.
“From a physiological point of view, part of it is quite demanding in terms of landing on water, right after it returned from microgravity for about one to two months,” said Hurley. “Ground teams are fully aware of the challenges of water landing and what it has on the human body, and we will take it from there.”
In the photos: Demo-2’s historic test flight with astronauts
Although NASA desires to unlock the Demo-2 capsule, return trip planning is not specified. NASA and SpaceX will base the timing of progress on many weather and ocean criteria, whichever is seven spray points the team ends up focusing.
Right now, these conditions look complicated. The National Hurricane Center (NOAA) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitors a system called Hurricane Isaias as it occupies the Caribbean Sea and heads for Florida.
From this morning predictions predict the storm will head off the east coast of Florida all day on Sunday, potentially maintaining safe conditions on the Gulf Coast, where four of the seven potential sites are located.
The astronauts said they were leaving staff worries on the ground and were ready to take the advice the mission recommended. “We don’t have the weather under control and we know we can stay here longer,” Behnken said. “There are more feeds and I know the space station program has more work to do for them [researchers] and other people who sent science here to the space station. ‘ “
Safe Return for Demo-2 is the last piece of the puzzle to be approved by NASA at the next launch of SpaceX, the company’s first mission to the full-length space station. This is called Crew-1 the mission is currently focused launch in late September.
Crew-1 will carry three NASA cosmonauts – Michael Hopkins, Viktor Glover and Shannon Walker – and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi to the space station for a stay of more than six months, which will count the number of laboratory staff at seven.
NASA also recently announced the staffing of the next mission, Crew-2, which in 2021 will feature astronauts Megan McArthur (who is married to Behnken) and Shane Kimbrough, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet. .
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