On Saturday evening, the crew boarded their spacecraft, which had remained attached to the space station’s docking ports since the astronauts arrived in November. They detached from the ISS at 8:37 p.m. ET and will spend the night aboard their capsule as it flies freely in orbit. The spacecraft ignites its on-board engines to begin descending safely into Earth’s thick atmosphere, and it will use a series of parachutes to slow its speed before splashing off the coast of Florida on Sunday morning around 2 a.m. 57 ET.
As the vehicle glides towards the ocean with a plume of four large parachutes floating above, a brigade of rescue ships will be positioned in the Gulf of Mexico to greet the crew on arrival. The astronauts will then be brought back by helicopter or boat to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is the base for all American astronauts.
Recovery teams will try to complete their return as quickly as possible. Splashing in the ocean can be difficult for astronauts, as the floating waves can cause severe seasickness. When asked what meal he was looking forward to when he returned home, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins admitted he probably wouldn’t feel up to a gourmet meal.
“If I have an appetite, it’s going to be a bonus,” Hopkins said at a remote press conference Monday.
Authorities are closely monitoring nearby water for intruders. During the Crew Dragon Demo-2 splash in August, a swarm of unidentified flag-waving boats encroached on the recovery area. But Coast Guard crews are currently stationed around the perimeter, hoping to prevent a repeat of this scenario.
The crew’s return on Sunday will conclude a historic mission for NASA and SpaceX: this is the first fully crewed mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, following a test mission in May that carried the astronauts of NASA Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, at the space station.
This is only the second time that SpaceX and NASA have brought astronauts home aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft, after Behnken and Hurley returned from SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission in August. And Behnken had described the return trip as the most painful part of the journey home.
The spacecraft becomes extremely hot due to the rapid compression of air and the friction of air molecules rubbing against its exterior, although a thick heat shield will protect the astronauts inside as the vehicle roars towards its exterior. target: “It doesn’t look like a machine. It looks like an animal,” Behnken told reporters last year.
But this mission, dubbed Crew-1, is not a test. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was officially certified as a people-worthy spacecraft ahead of Crew-1’s launch in November, paving the way for a relatively routine journey, carrying astronauts from diverse backgrounds.
The astronauts were even able to eat some of the crops they were growing, Hopkins said at a recent press conference.
“I think we would all agree that it’s amazing to be cool [food] here, ”Hopkins said.
It was Glover’s very first mission to space, and his mission was historic as he became the first black person to become a full-time staff member of the ISS.
“One thing that really struck me was the very first time I got up from the seat after [our spacecraft] was in orbit safely, and I looked out the window and saw the Earth 250 miles high, “Glover said.” I’ll never forget that moment … It wasn’t about of sight. It was what the sight made me feel … the Earth is amazing. It’s beautiful. He protects us and so we have to work hard to protect him. “
SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which, for the first time in the history of the space agency, entrusted much of the design, development and testing of new human-class spacecraft to the private sector. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed price contracts worth $ 2.6 billion and $ 4.2 billion, respectively, to do the job. Development of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is still delayed due to major software issues detected during a test mission last year, but officials say the vehicle could be ready this year.