A gum drop-shaped fireball is set to crash through the dark Florida sky overnight.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four astronauts to NASA prepares to plow through the atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound, deploy four parachutes as it approaches the coast of Florida and then glide to a gentle splashdown in the ocean around 2:57 am ONE Sunday.
The journey home has already begun. The spacecraft, called Resilience, has moved away from the International Space Station (ISS), which carries Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins from NASA along with Soichi Noguchi from the Japanese Aviation Agency.
Resilience carried these astronauts to the ISS in November. They have lived and worked there ever since.
Their mission, called Crew-1, officially restored NASA’s ability to shoot people into space on a US spacecraft for the first time since the space shuttles stopped flying in 2011. Six-month spaceflights have been routine for NASA astronauts launching into space. Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but until now the United States had never flown such lengthy missions alone.
Crew-1 is also SpaceX’s first routine astronaut flight to NASA. The agency has already purchased five more crew dragon missions. The second, Crew-2, launched four more astronauts against the ISS on April 23; they reached the station the following morning.
Walker, Glover, Hopkins and Noguchi greeted the newcomers, but the ISS was crowded. So on Saturday night, the Crew-1 team climbed back aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience for the journey home.
Watch live as Crew-1 returns to Earth
NASA broadcasts the nearly seven-hour journey – including the fiery leap to Earth and the splashdown at the end – via livestream below, which began at 7 p.m. 18 A Saturday.
Walker, Glover, Hopkins and Noguchi boarded the Resilience capsule and closed the hatch behind them at 1 p.m. 18.20 ONE SATURDAY. After about two hours of check, hooks that held resilience at the space station pulled back at. 20:35 ET and free the spaceship from the ISS. The vehicle then fired its thrusters to return.
Crew-1 return flight was originally scheduled for Wednesday and then for Saturday morning, but NASA delayed it twice after forecasts predicted strong winds in splashdown zones.
SpaceX has flown humans back to Earth from the ISS once before – on a test flight with a crew called Demo-2. In May, this mission rockets NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into orbit. They stayed on the ISS for two months before splashing down into the Gulf of Mexico.
The entire descent and landing process is automated, but Hurley advised Crew-1 astronauts to make sure they “stay in front of the capsule,” according to Hopkins, the mission chief.
“Preparing for that landing just goes beyond our procedures and makes sure, when we get into the series of events, that we are ready to go, and we follow right along with all the automation that it takes us, hopefully, safe landing, ”Hopkins told reporters in a call from the ISS on Monday.
If all goes well, resilience is expected to spend the next few hours in orbit around the ground and maneuvering into place. Kl. 22.58 ET the capsule must dispose of its suitcase – a lower section equipped with fuel tanks, solar panels and other hardware – which it no longer needs.
From there, the Crew-1 astronauts could be on an uneven trip.
“The landing was – I would say it was more than Doug and I expected,” Behnken told reporters after returning to Earth aboard the spaceship. “I was personally amazed at how quickly the events all took place.”
“It felt like we were inside an animal,” he added.
Behnken also said that the crucial moments in the landing process – such as when the capsule was separated from the trunk and when the parachutes were used – felt “much like being hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat.”
What to expect when astronauts crash to Earth
As the spacecraft Resilience approaches Earth, it is expected to shoot its thrusters continuously and push itself further into the atmosphere.
Soon, the spaceship was to crash through the atmosphere, overheating the material around it to a blistering 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point in his flight, Behnken said, he could feel the capsule warming up and the force of the Earth’s gravity pulling on him for the first time in two months. It felt like being in a centrifuge, he added.
Crew Dragon’s heat shield – a collection of heat-resistant tiles that cover the spaceship’s belly – must deflect the overheated material to protect the astronauts inside. After the Demo-2 landing, NASA and SpaceX found that one of these tiles had worn more than expected. So SpaceX reinforced the heat shield with stronger materials.
Once it’s about 18,000 feet above sea level, Resilience will have to use four parachutes – bringing a “pretty significant shake,” Behnken said.
From there, resilience must slide to a mild splashdown in the ocean at. 02:57 ONE SUNDAY. A crew member is expected to pick up the charred capsule and carry the astronauts ashore.
During Behnken and Hurley’s return to Earth, a crowd of sighted boats came dangerously close to the spaceship after it splashed down. To prevent this from happening again, SpaceX, NASA and the Coast Guard plan to secure a 10-mile boat without perimeter around the Crew-1 crew site.
“Landings are always pretty dynamic, especially with the capsules like this, especially when the slides open. So it’s always a little bit exciting,” Hopkins said.
Asked what he would like to eat when he returns from the ISS, he replied: “If I have an appetite, it will be a bonus.”
This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published on April 26, 2021.
Read the original article on Business Insider