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SpaceX-NASA Crew-1 astronauts have returned from the ISS – here’s what happened

The astronauts – NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut from the Japan Space Agency – had boarded their Crew Dragon capsule on Friday afternoon and spent the night aboard the 13-foot-wide, fully autonomous capsule. a series of burns and engine maneuvers to prepare for re-entry.

The spacecraft ignited its engines to return to Earth’s dense inner atmosphere around 2 a.m. ET, and the capsule deployed a series of twisting parachutes to slow its descent before descending off the coast of Panama City, Florida at 2 p.m. : 56 a.m.

The safe return of the astronauts marks the end of a remarkable NASA and SpaceX mission called Crew-1

, which set a record as the longest time in space – over 5 months – by a crew launched aboard a US spacecraft.

The spacecraft becomes extremely hot due to the friction of air molecules rubbing in its exterior, although a thick heat shield will protect the astronauts inside as the vehicle roars at its target: “It doesn’t sound like a machine. It sounds like an animal, “Benken told reporters last year.

A crew of recovery ships waited to pull the crew’s Dragon out of the ocean, moving fast because the bouncing waves could cause severe sea sickness to the astronauts. Asked what he was looking forward to after returning home, Hopkins told a news conference Monday that he would probably not be able to handle the gourmet meal.

The astronauts inside the capsule are ready to leave

“If I have an appetite, it will be a bonus,” Hopkins told a remote news conference Monday.

Glover went down in history with this mission: On top of that, it was his first space flight, becoming the first black man to ever serve a long-term ISS crew.

“One thing that really struck me was the first time I got out of the seat after that. [our spacecraft] I was safe in orbit and I looked out the window and saw the Earth from 250 miles up, “Glover said during a remote press conference before Saturday’s release.” I will never forget this moment … It was not about the view. The look made me feel … The earth is amazing. It’s beautiful. It protects us, so we have to work hard to protect it. “

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule exploded in the Gulf of Mexico just before 3 a.m. Sunday

Prior to its launch in November, the Crew-1 team named their spacecraft Crew Dragon “Sustainability” in honor of the NASA and SpaceX teams that worked through the pandemic to bring their mission off the ground, as well as the global audience that fought Covid-19, as well as a broad reliance on racial injustices in the months before the Crew-1 launch.

Glover said the crew carried the mantra of resilience with them during their stay in space, noting that they had to make an unexpected space trip for minor repairs outside the lab: “Sustainability is one of the most important aspects in this business and research period, “Glover said Monday.

A SpaceX rocket carrying four astronauts launches from Florida
The United States has spent nearly a decade without the ability to launch astronauts into space since the withdrawal of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and NASA has been forced to rely on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to take astronauts to the ISS, which the space agency said was left a multibillion-dollar orbital laboratory with a shortage of staff. 13 astronauts were on board at the same time in 2009. This number has occasionally dropped to three times, leaving fewer people to help conduct experiments and maintain a well-maintained space station. However, with the latest SpaceX missions, the staff has grown to 11.

SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule as part of NASA’s commercial crew program, which for the first time in the space agency’s history handed over much of the design, development, and testing of new man-made spacecraft to the private sector. NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed-price contracts worth $ 2.6 billion and $ 4.2 billion, respectively, to get the job done. Development of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is still slow due to major software problems discovered during a test mission last year, but officials say the vehicle could be ready this year.

NASA has long expected the ability to take full control of personnel on the US-controlled part of the ISS, and the commissioning of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has already dramatically increased the amount of research that can be performed aboard the lab in two decades. .

The experiments the Crew-1 astronauts worked on include research into how microgravity affects human heart tissue. They also conducted space walks to make improvements and repairs to the space station’s exterior, and grew radishes to build on research designed to understand how food can be grown to support deep-space exploration missions.

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