After two busy months in space, the first two NASA astronauts to visit the International Space Station in a commercial vehicle are now ready to return to Earth, if the weather cooperates.
Doug Hurley i Bob Behnken arrived on the International Space Station on May 31, the day after becoming the first astronauts to launch from Florida located inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. But this weekend they have to face one of the most challenging aspects of the mission: leaving the space station, spending hours inside that same capsule, parachuting into the Earth’s atmosphere, and splash on the Florida coast.
“It’s time to go try it out and see how it goes,” Hurley said during a press conference on Friday (July 31) with his fellow orbiters during his last full day at the space station .
Hurley and Behnken are currently scheduled to board the Dragon Crew capsule on Saturday (August 1) and explode on Sunday (August 2). NASA officials have indicated that its initial target site is in the Gulf of Mexico on the coast of Panama City, Florida.
Related: Historic test flight of the EspaiX Demo-2 Crew Dragon: full coverage
The splashed procedure marks the last hurdle of the duo’s mission, dubbed dubbed Demo-2, and marks the final test of the SpaceX trading system. After a safe return, the company should be clear about launching periodic missions into the orbiting laboratory.
Every step of the Demo-2 mission has been one evaluation of the new spacecraftAnd both Behnken leaders and Hurley and NASA have highlighted throughout the mission that it has been a test flight. The task of the astronauts has been to watch over all aspects of the vehicle and make sure it is ready for regular use by crew members, but it also means that they have been a guinea pig of some sort throughout the mission, and also requires for his return, although the astronauts said they have no problems.
“As we get closer, I think we’re really focusing more and more on our preparations to be ready for toast activities,” Behnken said. “I still don’t feel nervous about it.”
For decades, American astronauts returning from space have fallen to the ground, either in a runway landing like those driven by NASA space shuttles or in a parachute landing as Russian Soyuz capsules do. The last American crew to return to the ocean did so 45 years ago, in the late 20th century Apollo-Soyuz test project mission in which astronauts met with Soviet cosmonauts in orbit.
“The water landing part is pretty physiologically challenging, right after it’s back in microgravity on the order of one to two months,” Hurley said. “The ground crews are fully aware of the challenges that a water landing and the human body entails and we will just take it.”
In the photos: Historic SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with astronauts
While NASA is eager to see the Demo-2 capsule untied, the return trip schedule is not in stone. NASA and SpaceX will base the synchronization of the procedure on a series of meteorological and oceanic criteria seven places of exploitation the team ends up scoring.
Right now, these conditions seem complicated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Center is monitoring a system called Hurricane Isaiah as it barrels across the Caribbean Sea, heading for Florida.
Starting this morning, forecasts predict the storm will head toward the east coast of Florida all day Sunday, leaving safe conditions on the Gulf Coast, where four of the seven potential sites are located.
The astronauts said they leave the weather concern to staff on the ground and are willing to do what mission control advises. “We don’t control the weather and we know we can be here longer,” Behnken said. “There’s more chow and I know the space station program has more work we can do for these [researchers] and other people who have sent science here to the space station. “
The safe return of Demo-2 is the latest piece of the puzzle for NASA’s approval of the upcoming launch of SpaceX crew, the company’s first mission to the entire space station. Double called Crew-1, that the mission is currently being directed release in late September.
Crew-1 it will take three NASA astronauts (Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker) and Soichi Noguchi from Japan to the space station for a stay of more than six months, which will allow orbiting laboratory staff to be seven.
NASA has also recently announced staff for the next mission, Crew-2, which will see American astronauts Megan McArthur (who is married to Behnken) and Shane Kimbrough, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet exploding Earth in 2021. This mission will use the same Endeavor Crew Dragon capsule that the Demo-2 crew. .
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