NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Bihken described in detail how it felt and looked like when SpaceX’s spacecraft was coming back down to Earth for a successful splash in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.
The astronauts said they were surprised at what kind of experience SpaceX gave them.
The astronauts answered questions from NASA’s Johnson Space Center for the first time on Tuesday as they returned to their home planet.
Hurley and Biehken began Endeavor naming the SpaceX Dragon capsule on May 30 from Kennedy Space Center, arriving at the International Space Station the next day. The launch marked the first manned spacecraft off the coast of Florida in nearly nine years.
After more than two months in space, the two traveled to Earth in the Dragon Endeavor in about 19 hours, sleeping overnight in the spacecraft before splattering.
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The landing went smoothly on Sunday by all accounts as the spacecraft slowly took off from the coast of Pensacola into the Gulf of Mexico, while the tropical storm Isis was intercepting the Atlantic coast of Florida. The event marked the first spacecraft in 45 years.
Both Bacon and Hurley said that the video SpaceX showed them was what they would see and hear and that it was very accurate when they experienced it. The videos were recorded when the SpaceX crew Dragon made their first trip to the ISS but without the astronauts on board last year.
Bihanken describes the descent on Earth through every step.
The first part of the D-Orbit events occurred when the spacecraft separated from the trunk while the dragon was still in low-Earth orbit.
“All the different incidents from trunk separation through parachute firing were very much like hitting the back of a chair with a baseball bat, you know, just a crack,” Bacon said.
Subsequently, the capsule began to return to Earth as the dragon began to burn its dorbit.
“As we descend through the atmosphere, I was personally amazed at how quickly all events are broadcast. It seemed that just minutes after the burn was complete, we could see the windows. And can see clouds running at a very high speed, ”said Behkan.
Behnken said that the two continued to talk to each other, even experiencing some 4.2 G-forces, even some jokes.
While the spacecraft Heat Shield protects capsules and astronauts, Behenken described “warming the capsule on the inside” as it descended through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Bacon said, before the parachute was deployed, they could feel the crew dragon maneuver for re-entry using their thrusters.
“It came alive. It started a loud fire and pointed us in the right direction, the atmosphere started making noise, you could hear that thunder outside the vehicle, ”said Behkan. “It does not sound like a machine. It seems that the animal is coming from the atmosphere. “
Astronauts can feel the parachute, first the drug chute, then the main parachute deployed as a spacecraft slowed to a splash from 350 mph to 15 mph.
When the parachutes were deployed Behnken said “it was a very significant setback”.
Both Hurley and Biehken commended the teams at SpaceX that built the spacecraft.
“The vehicle was well maintained until a nominal drug (parachute) was deployed,” Hurley said, later adding, “My admiration for SpaceX and the commercial crew program, the vehicle performed exactly as it was was considered.”
The launch, docking, and splashdown marked the final test flight for SpaceX’s astronaut capsule before NASA could issue a certificate for regular flights for its astronauts. The spacecraft will be fully inspected and refurbished before another astronaut flight takes off early next year.
After landing in the bay, the astronauts had to wait and be helped for about an hour before the hatch opened. This wait was partly due to some curious sailors who were trying to make contact with them despite the Coast Guard and then due to the potential smoke hazard.
While they waited, astronauts used satellite phones to make some calls. According to Hurley, including the flight director in Houston, they may have missed any number.
“Hi, this is Bob and Doug, we’re at sea,” Hurley said as he told the flight director.
The astronauts then called their wives, who were together in Houston, to tell them they had a safe landing.
“After going through it as a family member, you become helpless until you hear the voice of your loved one on the other end and it was a great chance to reassure them that we are in the water Were. We were fine We were feeling well, ”Hurley said.
After exiting the spacecraft, the astronauts were taken back to land by helicopter. Then by jet came back to Houston where he enjoyed some pizza, his first meal on earth in more than 60 days.
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