CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s first long-duration astronaut mission is coming to an finish, with a Crew Dragon capsule undocking from the International Space Station and headed for a splashdown off the coast of Florida early Sunday (May 2).
Strapped contained in the Dragon capsule, referred to as Resilience, are 4 astronauts who will make the first U.S. 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, is wrapping up a six-month mission to the station.
The astronauts solid off from the station at 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 GMT) on Saturday (May 1). Their Dragon spacecraft then carried out a collection of quick burns to again away from the area station.
“Station, thanks for your hospitality, sorry we stayed a little bit longer, see you back on Earth,” Hopkins, commander of Resilience, radioed the station’s crew after undocking. (Saturday’s Dragon departure was delayed several days because of unhealthy climate at its splashdown website.)
Live updates: SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronaut mission to the space station
The astronaut quartet spent six months in area as a part of SpaceX’s first long-duration crewed flight, referred to as Crew-1, which launched final November atop a Falcon 9 rocket. That flight adopted on the heels of a profitable check flight of a Dragon spacecraft that carried two NASA astronauts to the area station final May. That Dragon, referred to as Endeavor, recently returned to the station on April 24, with the 4 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 primary time that two Crew Dragon automobiles had been parked on the area station on the similar time. It additionally made for cramped sleeping arrangements for the crew as NASA solely has a sure variety of sleeping pods for astronauts. Crew-2’s arrival introduced the whole variety of astronauts as much as 11, with a couple of of the astronauts sleeping wherever there was room, and even within the Dragons themselves. With Crew-1’s departure, it brings the whole variety of astronauts again to seven.
On Dec. 27, 1968, Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell of Apollo 8 splashed down within the Pacific Ocean. Their flight was the primary to orbit the moon and the primary to make an evening touchdown. Now, 53 years later, the Crew-1 crew will do the identical, solely this time they’ll splash down within the Gulf of Mexico.
NASA’s industrial crew program supervisor, Steve Stitch, defined that the restoration crews practice for each daytime and nighttime landings. “The vehicle is certified to land during the day or night, so there’s not an issue with the vehicle itself,” he stated throughout the webcast. “And we’ve been practicing with the recovery crews to land in day or night.”
Here’s our first look of the day inside Crew Dragon Resilience. Shannon Walker and @Astro_Soichi have suited up. @Astro_illini and @AstroVicGlover will now go well with up following hatch closure, which occurred at 6:26pm ET (22:26 UTC). pic.twitter.com/9tVaNW4VVuMay 1, 2021
Stitch defined that NASA selected to schedule the crew missions to fly in April and October to make the most of perfect climate situations. “The primary concern for this landing was the weather,” he stated. “The forecast [for this day] was so good and so benign — that’s what’s best for the crew.”
To put together for this and any nighttime touchdown, the restoration crews (in addition to the astronauts) take part in coaching workout routines beneath various situations. They additionally capitalized on the recent return of a Dragon cargo ship in January to make sure they had been prepared.
“The SpaceX crew recovered that vehicle at night, and the Crew and Cargo Dragons are pretty much identical,” Stitch stated. “So we’re well-prepared for this opportunity.”
NASA and SpaceX selected to delay the crew’s return twice to attend for the best climate. That delay paid off as climate officers reported glass-like sea states and really calm winds.
When Resilience undocked from the International Space Station, each craft had been crusing 260 miles above Mali, Africa. The crew’s flight house is anticipated to final roughly 6.5-hours, because the Dragon spacecraft conducts a collection of fastidiously choreographed departure burns earlier than its last deorbit burn.
Under parachute and the cloak of darkness, Dragon will descend, touching down proper on time within the Gulf of Mexico, simply off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Crews had been anticipating perfect climate situations, with calm seas and lightweight winds.
The capsule is slated to splash down at 2:57 a.m. EDT (0657 GMT), and SpaceX’s quick boats would be the first on scene, arriving about 10 minutes later. The Dragon restoration ship, GO Navigator is the primary restoration ship for this mission, and used its onboard restoration methods to hoist the Dragon out of the water.
Once the Dragon is safed, restoration crew members will open the hatch and extract the crew. After exiting the Dragon, the crew members shall be checked out by medical officers, then board a helicopter to take them again to shore earlier than one other airplane will fly them again to Houston.
In addition to the 4 astronauts, the Dragon is hauling roughly 550-lbs. (250 kilograms) of analysis and provides again to Earth.
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