The men have been aboard the International Space Station for two months after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida into a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
His journey began with a historic May launch, which marked the first manned mission to take off from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, and which could be the first of many if the capsule sailed safely into the United States. Florida coast this weekend.
As of Thursday night, NASA said it still planned to move forward with the splashes, but “teams will continue to monitor the weather before disengaging Saturday night,”; the space agency said in a tweet.
A safe home is crucial. Although SpaceX previously launched a Crew Dragon on an unreceived demonstration mission, the Hurley and Behnken mission is still considered a test. The two men are veteran NASA astronauts and test pilots specifically trained to respond to any technical issues that may arise in the new vehicle, and NASA will not officially certify Crew Dragon as a human-quality spacecraft until a safe return.
And the return trip is, in some ways, an even riskier journey than the launch. The Dragon of the crew will have to cut through the Earth’s atmosphere at 17,500 miles per hour. Rapid air compression i the friction between the air and the spacecraft will heat the outer part of the spacecraft to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA.
Behnken described his experience re-attempting the atmosphere in previous NASA missions last year: “You actually see the light from the atmosphere as it heats the outer portions of the spacecraft. You see some orange lights flashing the plasma. as he passed over the windows, “He said. “The vehicle is going through something pretty serious, and we’ll wait for him to take care of us as he takes us to the entrance.”
Then, as the crew’s Dragon approaches the Earth, it will deploy a small set of parachutes, called “drug parachutes,” to begin delaying the descent before a large plume of four parachute fans can brake. the vehicle even lower. If all goes well, Crew Dragon will travel less than 20 miles per hour when it reaches the water.
According to Hurley, astronauts will experience much higher G forces in the crew’s dragon. And it will mark the first time astronauts have landed in the water since 1975.
Even after splashes, the trip can be booming. Water can dump the spacecraft, making astronauts uncomfortable when they wait for recovery ships to arrive.
“It takes a while so … we’ll both have the right hardware ready if we start to feel a little sick,” Behnken told a news conference Friday. The “hardware,” the astronauts clarified, will be a paper bag, just like the airlines put in the back pockets of the seat for nauseous passengers.
Behnken and Hurley will also have to disembark in a place with calm weather so that high winds and waves do not interfere with the splashing or recovery process. This means that the weather criteria for ironing operations are even stricter than was launched.
NASA and SpaceX officials will continue to monitor the forecasts until Crew Dragon reintroduces the environment.
Stops with Mother Nature have already been a recurring theme of Hurley and Behnken’s journey. The first launch attempt in May was hit by storms. And during its second (successful) launch attempt on May 31, the clock back reached zero, when another group of storm clouds cleared the sky.
If the weather prevents Crew Dragon from overflowing this weekend, NASA and SpaceX will try again next Wednesday, August 5th.