CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – SpaceX’s first long-term astronaut mission ends with the Crew Dragon capsule detached from the International Space Station and heading off the coast of Florida in early Sunday (May 2nd).
Dropped into the Dragon capsule, called Sustainability, are four astronauts who will make the first landing on US night in more than 50 years. The crew, NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese aerospace astronaut Soichi Noguchi are completing a six-month mission to the station.
The astronauts left the station at 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 GMT) on Saturday (May 1
“Station, thank you for your hospitality, sorry we stayed a little longer, I’ll see you again on Earth,” Hopkins, commander of Resilience, called the station’s crew on the radio after disconnecting. (Dragon’s departure on Saturday was postponed for several days due to bad weather at his spray site.)
Live updates: SpaceX Crew-1 space mission to the space station
The quartet of astronauts spent six months in space as part of the first long-term flight with a SpaceX crew, called Crew-1, launched last November on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. NASA astronauts to the space station last May. This Dragon, called Endeavor, recently returned to the station on April 24 with four Crew-2 astronauts: NASA’s Shane Kimbro and Megan MacArthur, JAXA astronaut Akhihiko Hoschide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Peske.
Their arrival was the first time that two Crew Dragon vehicles were parked on the space station at the same time. It was also designed for tight sleeping conditions 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 to 11, with several of the astronauts sleeping wherever there was room, and even in the dragons themselves. With the departure of Crew-1, he returned the total number of astronauts to seven.
In photos: SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station
On December 27, 1968, Bill Anders, Frank Bormann and Jim Lovell of Apollo 8 scattered in the Pacific Ocean. Their flight was the first to orbit the moon and the first to make a night landing. Now, 53 years later, the crew of Crew-1 will do the same, only this time they will burst into the Gulf of Mexico.
NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Stitch, explained that recovery crews train to land both during the day and at night. “The vehicle is certified for landing during the day or night, so there is no problem with the vehicle itself,” he said during the webcast. “And we trained with the recovery crews to land during the day or at night.”
Here is our first look of the day inside Crew Dragon Resilience. Shannon Walker and @Astro_Soichi are appropriate. @Astro_illini and @AstroVicGlover will now be able to cope after the hatch closes at 6:26 pm ET (22:26 UTC). pic.twitter.com/9tVaNW4VVuMay 1, 2021
Stitch explained that NASA has chosen to plan the crew’s missions to fly in April and October to take advantage of ideal weather conditions. “The main concern for this landing was the weather,” he said. “The forecast [for this day] he was so good and so good – that’s the best for the crew. ”
To prepare for this and every night landing, recovery crews (as well as astronauts) participate in training exercises under different conditions. They also took advantage of the recent return of the cargo ship Dragon in January to make sure they were ready.
“The SpaceX crew rebuilt the vehicle overnight, and Crew and Cargo Dragons are almost identical,” Stitch said. “So we are well prepared for this opportunity.”
NASA and SpaceX have chosen to delay the return of the crew twice to wait for the perfect time. This delay paid off as managers reported glass-like maritime states and very quiet winds.
When stability detached from the International Space Station, both vessels sailed 260 miles over Mali, Africa. The crew’s flight home is expected to last approximately 6.5 hours, as the Dragon spacecraft conducts a series of carefully choreographed take-off burns before its final burn.
Under a parachute and a mantle of darkness, the Dragon will descend, touching just in time in the Gulf of Mexico, right on the shores of Panama City, Florida. The crews expected ideal weather conditions, with calm sea and light wind.
The capsule is scheduled to burst at 2:57 a.m. EDT (0657 GMT), and SpaceX’s fast boats will be the first on the scene, arriving about 10 minutes later. The Dragon Recovery Ship, GO Navigator is the main recovery ship for this mission and uses its onboard recovery systems to lift the Dragon out of the water.
Once the Dragon is protected, the recovery team members will open the hatch and retrieve the crew. Once out of the Dragon, the crew will be checked by medical personnel, then boarded a helicopter to return to shore before another plane takes them back to Houston.
In addition to the four astronauts, the Dragon weighs about 550 pounds. (250 kilograms) research and supplies back to Earth.
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