On Saturday night, the crew is scheduled to climb aboard their spacecraft, which has been stuck in the space station’s docking ports since the astronauts arrived in November. They dock out of the ISS around noon. 20:30 ET and then spend the night aboard their capsule as it flies through orbit. The spacecraft will fire up on board engines to safely cut down into Earth’s thick atmosphere, and it will use a series of parachutes to slow its decent before spraying down off the coast of Florida Sunday morning around 2:57 am ET.
As the vehicle glides toward the sea with a cloud of four large parachutes waving overhead, a brigade of lifeboats will be stationed in the Gulf of Mexico to greet the crew upon arrival. The astronauts are then sent by helicopter or boat back to NASA̵
The recovery crews will try to make their return as soon as possible. Ocean splashdowns can be rough on astronauts, as the undulating waves can cause serious seasickness. When asked what meal he was looking forward to when he got home, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins acknowledged that he probably would not feel up to a gourmet meal.
“If I have an appetite, it’s going to be a bonus,” Hopkins told a news conference on Monday.
Authorities are keeping a close eye on nearby water for any uninvited guests. During the Crew Dragon Demo-2 splashdown in August, a swarm of unidentified, flag-waving boats attacked the recovery area. But the Coast Guard crews are currently stationed around the perimeter and hope to prevent a recurrence of this scenario.
The crew’s return Sunday will complete a landmark mission for NASA and SpaceX: It’s the first fully operational crew mission for the spacecraft Crew Dragon, following a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station .
This is only the second time that SpaceX and NASA have ever brought astronauts aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft after Behnken and Hurley’s return from SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission in August. And Behnken had described re-entry as the most gut-wrenching part of the return flight.
The spacecraft gets extremely hot due to rapid air compression and friction of air molecules rubbing against its exterior, although a thick heat shield will protect the astronauts inside when the vehicle roars towards its target: “It does not sound like a machine. It does not sound. Sounds like an animal, ”Behnken told reporters last year.
But this mission, called Crew-1, is not a test. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was officially certified as a spacecraft worth carrying people ahead of the Crew-1 launch in November, paving the way for it to begin making the trip relatively routine and transporting astronauts from various backgrounds.
The astronauts even got to eat some of the crops they grew, Hopkins said during a recent news conference.
“I think we would all agree that it’s great to be fresh [food] up here, ”Hopkins said.
It was Glover’s first mission to space ever, and his mission was historic because he became the first black person to become a full-time employee of the ISS.
“One thing that really affected me deeply was the very first time I got out of the seat after [our spacecraft] was safe in orbit and I looked out the window and saw the Earth from 250 miles up, “said Glover” I will never forget that moment … It was not about the view. That was how the view made me feel … The earth is amazing. It is beautiful. It protects us and therefore we should work hard to protect it. “
SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which for the first time in the space agency’s history delivered much of the design, development and testing of new human-rated spacecraft to the private sector. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed price contracts for $ 2.6 billion and $ 4.2 billion, respectively, to get the job done. The development of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is still delayed due to major software issues discovered during a test mission last year, but officials say the vehicle could be ready this year.