Four astronauts take the red eye home to Earth.
At 8:35 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, four crew members – three NASA astronauts and one from the Japanese space agency – were pushed off the International Space Station in a capsule built by SpaceX.
“Thank you for your hospitality, we’re sorry we stayed a little longer,” said Michael Hopkins, commander of Crew Dragon Resilience, referring to the take-off delay. “I’ll see you on Earth again.”
The astronauts will orbit the planet several times over the next few hours until they burst early Sunday morning in the Gulf of Mexico south of Panama City, Florida.
When will the astronauts explode on Earth?
The approximate time for spraying is 02:57 h. Eastern time on Sunday. SpaceX in an update on Saturday afternoon announced that the weather is still favorable for landing.
The agency has scheduled a press conference with NASA, SpaceX and other staff for 5 a.m. Sunday.
NASA and SpaceX broadcast live on these operations on NASA TV, or you can watch the video in the built-in player above.
What happens during the astronauts’ journey home?
It will be a long journey. The astronauts boarded the Dragon Crew and the hatch closed at 6:26 p.m., but then more than two hours passed before the capsule left, while the astronauts checked for air leaks from either the capsule, called Resilience, or the spacecraft. station. Stability detached autonomously at 8:35 p.m., and then conducted a series of shooting ranges to move away from the space station.
SpaceX confirmed that the propulsion launch was completed at 10:17 p.m. The capsule will now orbit the plant until Florida is in the correct position to burst into the Gulf of Mexico.
Shortly before 2 a.m., as it prepares to return to Earth, Crew Dragon will drop what SpaceX calls the spacecraft’s “trunk,” the cylindrical compartment under the gumpdrop-shaped capsule. The trunk will burn in the atmosphere.
Five minutes after the trunk is detached, the capsule will launch its pushers to drop out of orbit.
Once it is low enough in the Earth’s atmosphere, the parachutes will be positioned to slightly lower the capsule into the sea.
What do astronauts experience during a water landing?
Spaceships can safely return to Earth by water or land.
In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules were sprayed into the ocean as Soviet capsules completed their land voyages. The current Russian Soyuz capsules continue to make ground landings, as do the Chinese Shenzhou capsules carrying an astronaut.
NASA returned to water landings on August 2, 2020, when the first crew to return to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule – the same one that took astronauts to the space station last week – crashed near Pensacola, Florida.
Returning from the midst of a free fall of the orbit to the normal forces of Earth’s gravity is often disorienting for astronauts. Water landing adds the possibility of seasickness.
During a press conference last year, Douglas Hurley, a member of the earlier crew that completed the water landing in the SpaceX capsule, said he had read reports from astronauts from NASA’s Skylab missions, some of the last before him to make water landings. . “There were some challenges after the spraying,” he said. “People didn’t feel well, and you know, it’s the case with water landing, even if you’re not as deconditioned as we will be.”
Mr Hurley acknowledged that vomiting would not be unexpected.
“There are bags if you need them, and we’ll have them on hand,” he said. He added that “if this is to happen, it will certainly not be the first time this has happened in a spacecraft.”
Is it safe to land in the ocean at night?
U.S. spacecraft have not made a night landing on Apollo 8 astronauts, NASA said.
This crew arrived before dawn on December 27, 1968, about 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. The next day, the Times called it a “precise spray” and noted that the crew remained in its capsule for about 90 minutes before being pulled out of the Pacific by a helicopter crew from the USS Yorktown. William Anders, the pilot of the mission’s lunar module, said on the radio while in the capsule, “Get us out of here, I’m not the sailor on this boat.” (James Lovell, his crew assistant, was a U.S. Navy captain. )
SpaceX rehearsed work overnight and in January successfully recovered a cargo capsule that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, west of Tampa Bay.
One of the advantages of landing at night may be that there are probably fewer private boats. This was a problem in August when the earlier SpaceX capsule burst. More than a dozen boats – one of which sails under the Trump flag – approached the capsule, and several of them came closer.
The episode caused concern among NASA and SpaceX employees about security and safety procedures. If there was an emergency, NASA officials said, private boats could hamper recovery efforts. They added that the capsule could have contained poisonous fumes that posed a risk to the boats.
To prevent such an exit, the Coast Guard will this time create a safety zone of 11.5 miles around the spray site and drive away all insiders.
What is the risk of space debris for astronauts?
Usually, the risk of space debris hitting a spacecraft going to or from the space station is small. It’s usually a fairly short trip – about a day – and a spaceship like the Crew Dragon is quite small, so it’s not a big target for a wayward piece of debris.
But when another group of astronauts, Crew-2, launched last week in a different Crew Dragon, they were a little scared when mission control at SpaceX’s California headquarters told them there was a piece of debris aimed at them. They put their suits back on and returned to their seats in case the spacecraft was hit, which could cause the capsule to leak.
The mission’s control then provided a reassuring update: Further analysis showed that the closest approach to space debris was still not so close. Still, as a precaution, the astronauts waited until they were told that the space debris had passed.
The next day, a NASA spokesman said the wreckage had traveled a distance of 28 miles – not very close at all.
Then the United States Space Command, which tracks orbital debris, made a more confusing update: The piece of debris that is thought to have passed from Dragon Crew never existed. A spokesman for the Space Command said an inspection was being conducted to determine what had caused the false warning.
Who are the astronauts?
Crew-1 has four astronauts:
Victor GloverThe 45-year-old, chosen by NASA in 2013 as an astronaut, is on his first space flight. He is also the first black NASA astronaut to be a member of the space station crew.
Michael C. Hopkins, 52, a colonel in the US space force, is the flight commander. (Colonel Hopkins is also the first member of the newly formed US space force to go into space.) He was one of nine astronauts selected by NASA in 2009. He made a previous trip to the International Space Station in 2013-14. ., spending 166 days in orbit.
Soichi Noguchi, 56, an astronaut with the Japanese space agency JAXA completes his third space trip. He was a member of the Discovery space shuttle crew in 2005, when the shuttle was first launched after the loss of Colombia and its seven astronauts more than two years earlier.
During this visit to the International Space Station, Mr. Noguchi made three space exits. This included one to test techniques designed to repair damage to the shuttle’s heating plates, similar to what had doomed Colombia when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. In 2009-10, he spent five months in orbit as a member of the space station crew.
Shannon Walker, 55, had a previous stay on the space station in 2010. Dr. Walker holds a doctorate in space physics from Rice University, where he studies how the solar wind interacts with the atmosphere of Venus.
What are the astronauts doing aboard the space station?
The space station is slightly more crowded than usual, as another SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, Endeavor, docked on Saturday, April 24. This brought the station’s crew to 11, the largest number of astronauts on board since the space shuttles stopped flying (the record for most on board is 13). The four astronauts are leaving behind seven astronauts – three from NASA, two from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, one from the European Space Agency and one from JAXA.
But while there, they conducted scientific experiments, including tissue chips that mimic human organs and grow radishes and other vegetables. They also conducted space walks to install equipment outside the space station, including preparing it for new solar panels.
And just before they left, Mr. Glover celebrated his 45th birthday in orbit.
Other astronauts also enjoyed their last moments in orbit with images posted on Twitter.
What happens after a safe landing?
If the landing is similar to last August’s return, SpaceX staff will go to the capsule, check that it is intact and free of any toxic propellant, and restore the parachutes.
A larger recovery vessel will remove the capsule from the water. The hatch then opens to allow the four astronauts to exit.
After medical examinations, the astronauts will head to shore. From there, they will fly to Houston. The capsule will be taken to Cape Canaveral, where it will be repaired for a new space flight.