CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX’s first long-running astronaut mission is nearing completion, with a Crew Dragon capsule disconnected from the International Space Station and heading for a splashdown off the coast of Florida early Sunday (May 2).
Strapped inside the Dragon capsule, called Resilience, are four astronauts who will make the first American night water landing in more than 50 years. The crew, NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, complete a six-month mission to the station.
The astronauts threw from the station at. 20:35 EDT (0035 GMT) Saturday (May 1
“Station, thank you for your hospitality, sorry, we stayed a little longer, we’ll see you back on Earth,” Hopkins, head of resilience, sent the radio station crew after docking. (Saturday’s Dragon departure was delayed by several days due to bad weather at its splashdown site.)
Live updates: SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronaut mission to the space station
The astronaut quartet spent six months in space as part of SpaceX’s first long-term crew flight, called Crew-1, which was launched in November last year on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. This flight followed in the heels of a successful test flight of a Dragon spacecraft that carried two NASA astronauts to the space station in May last year. This dragon, called Endeavor, recently returned to the station on April 24 with the four Crew-2 astronauts: NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Ahkihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Their arrival marked the first time that two Crew Dragon vehicles were parked at the space station at the same time. It also provided cramped sleeping arrangements for the crew, as NASA only has a certain number of sleeping pods for astronauts. The arrival of Crew-2 brought the total number of astronauts up to 11, with a few of the astronauts sleeping wherever there was room, and even in the Dragons themselves. With the departure of Crew-1, it brings the total number of astronauts back to seven.
In photos: SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station
On December 27, 1968, Bill Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell left Apollo 8 sprayed into the Pacific Ocean. Their flight was the first to orbit the moon and the first to make a landing at night. Now, 53 years later, the Crew-1 crew will do the same, only this time they are spraying down the Gulf of Mexico.
NASA’s commercial crew host, Steve Stitch, explained that recovery crews train for both daytime and nighttime. “The vehicle is certified to land during the day or night, so there is no problem with the vehicle itself,” he said during the webcast. “And we’ve been rehearsing with the crew to land during the day or night.”
Here is our first look at the day inside Crew Dragon Resilience. Shannon Walker and @Astro_Soichi have passed. @Astro_illini and @AstroVicGlover are now looking after the closing, which took place at. 18:26 ET (22:26 UTC). pic.twitter.com/9tVaNW4VVu May 1, 2021
Stitch explained that NASA chose to schedule crew missions to fly in April and October to take advantage of ideal weather conditions. “The primary concern for this landing was the weather,” he said. “Forecast [for this day] was so good and so benign – that’s what’s best for the crew. ”
To prepare for this and any landing at night, the recovery crews (as well as the astronauts) participate in training exercises under different conditions. They also activated the recent return of a Dragon cargo ship in January to make sure they were ready.
“The SpaceX crew recovered the vehicle at night, and the crew and load carriers are largely identical,” Stitch said. “So we are well prepared for this opportunity.”
NASA and SpaceX chose to delay the crew’s return twice to wait for the ideal weather. The delay paid off as weather officials reported glass-like ocean states and very calm winds.
When Resilience was released from the International Space Station, both vessels sailed 260 miles over Mali, Africa. The crew’s flight is expected to last approximately 6.5 hours, as the Dragon spacecraft completes a series of carefully choreographed departure incinerations before its final deorbit firing.
Under a parachute and the mantle of darkness, Dragon will come down and touch the time in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Panama City, Florida. The crews expected ideal weather conditions with calm sea and light wind.
The capsule is intended for injection at 02:57 EDT (0657 GMT), and SpaceX’s fast boats will be the first on stage and arrive approx. 10 minutes later. Dragon Recovery Ship, GO Navigator is the main recovery ship for this mission and used its built-in recovery systems to hoist the dragon out of the water.
Once the kite is secured, the members of the recovery team open the hatch and pull out the crew. After the end of the dragon, the crew members will be checked out by medical officials and then board a helicopter to take them back ashore before another plane will fly them back to Houston.
In addition to the four astronauts, the dragon draws approx. 550 kg. (250 kg) research and supplies back to Earth.
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