After two months of being busy in space, the first two NASA astronauts to visit the International Space Station on a commercial vehicle are set to return to Earth – if the weather cooperates.
Doug hurley And Bob behnken Arriving at the International Space Station on May 31, the next day after becoming the first astronaut to launch from Florida, a SpaceX crew tucked inside a drug capsule. But later this week, they have to tackle one of the most challenging aspects of the mission: leaving the space station, spending hours inside the same capsule, parachuting through the Earth’s atmosphere, and Fallen down On the coast of Florida.
Hurley held his final full-day orbit on the space station with his colleagues during a news conference on Friday (31 July), saying it’s time to try it and see how it goes.
Hurley and Behnken are currently scheduled to board the Crew Drug Capsule on Saturday (August 1) and splash on Sunday (August 2). NASA officials have said that their initial splash is on the coast of Panama City, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
related: SpaceX’s Historic Demo-2 Crew Drone Test Flight: Full Coverage
The splashdown process is the final obstacle to Duo’s mission, dubbed Demo-2, And marks the final test for SpaceX’s commercial crew system. After the safe withdrawal, the company must clear to start a regular mission in the orbiting laboratory.
Every phase of the demo-2 mission has been a Evaluation of new spacecraft, And the leadership of both Behnken and Hurley and NASA have insisted the entire mission is a test flight. The astronaut’s job is to complete every aspect of the vehicle and ensure that it is ready for regular use by the crew, but it also means that they have been like guinea pigs throughout the mission, and this is their Is also for return. However, the astronauts said they were surprised.
Behn said, “As we get closer, I think we really focus more and more on being prepared for the activities of sparring.” “I still don’t feel nervous about it.”
For decades, American astronauts returning from space have touched the ground, either in a runway landing such as powered by NASA’s space shuttle or in a parachute by Russian Soyuz capsules. The last American crew to return to the ocean did so 45 years ago Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Mission in which astronauts met in orbit with Soviet Cosmonauts.
“Part of its water is very challenging from a physiological point of view, after coming back to microgravity for one to two months,” Hurley said. “Ground teams are fully aware of the challenges of landing and what it does for the human body and we will take it from there.”
In pictures: SpaceX’s historic demo-2 test flight with astronauts
Although NASA is eager to see the Demo-2 capsule undocked, the return trip is not scheduled. NASA and SpaceX will base the time of the process on a host of weather and whatever Seven splashdown sites The team ends up targeting.
Right now, those situations are looking difficult. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is monitoring a system, called Hurricane Isias, as it moves through the Caribbean Sea toward Florida.
Till this morning, Forecast forecast The storm will move toward the east coast of Florida throughout the day on Sunday, potentially leaving safe conditions on the Gulf Coast, where four of the seven possible sites are located.
The astronauts said they are leaving weather related concerns to the crews on the ground and are ready to advise on mission control. “We don’t control the weather and we know we can stay here longer,” Behenken said. “There’s more chow and I know the space station program has got more work that we can do for those people [researchers] And others have sent science to the space station here. “
A safe return for Demo-2 is the last piece of the puzzle for NASA’s approval for SpaceX’s next crew launch, the company’s first full-length mission to the space station. Dubbed Crew-1, that Mission currently targeted Launched in late September.
Crew-1 The three NASA astronauts – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker – and will take Japan’s Soichi Noguchi to the space station for more than six months, putting the orbiting laboratory’s staff at seven.
NASA also recently announced staffing for the next mission, Crew-2, Which will see the American astronauts Megan McArthur (who is married to Behenken) and Shane Kimbrat, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Peskett explode from Earth in 2021. This mission will use the same Endeavor Crew Dr Dragon capsule as the Demo-2 crew. .
Email Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @meaganbartels. Follow us @Spacedotcom on Twitter and on Facebook.