After two busy months in space, the first two NASA astronauts to visit the International Space Station on a commercial vehicle are ready to re-enter Earth – if the weather cooperates.
Doug Hurley u Bob Behnken arrived at the International Space Station on May 31, the day after it became the first astronaut to launch from Florida trapped inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. But this weekend, they have to address one of the most demanding aspects of the mission: leaving the space station, spending hours inside that same capsule, parachuting into the Earth’s atmosphere and flying down off the coast of Florida.
“It’s time to go try and see how it’s going,” Hurley said at a news conference on Friday (July 31) with his colleagues in orbit during his last full day on the space station.
Hurley and Behnken are currently scheduled to board the Dragon Crew capsule on Saturday (August 1) and disperse on Sunday (August 2). Their initial spread site is in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida’s Panama City, NASA officials said.
Related: SpaceX Dragon Crew Demo Flight 2: Full Coverage
The splashdown procedure marks the final hurdle of the duo’s mission, dubbed Demo-2, and marks the latest test for SpaceX’s commercial crew system. After a safe return, the company should be clear about launching regular missions to the binding laboratory.
Every step of the Demo-2 mission was done evaluation of the new spacecraft, and both Behnken and Hurley and NASA leadership stressed during the mission that it was a test flight. The astronauts ’job was to track every aspect of the vehicle and make sure it was ready for regular use by crew members, but it also meant they were kind of rabbits during the mission, which also keeps them afloat. for their return, though the astronauts said they are undistributed.
“As we get closer, I think we really focus more and more on our preparations to be ready for outreach activities,” Behnken said. “I still don’t feel nervous about it.”
For decades, American astronauts returning from space have not been spent on Earth, either in landings such as those run by NASA space shuttles or in parachute landing as do the capsules. Soyuz Russi. The last American crew to return to the ocean did so 45 years ago, at the end of the Sea. Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission in which astronauts met with Soviet cosmonauts in orbit.
“The landing part of the water is quite challenging from a physiological point of view, right after you get back from being in microgravity for the order of a month to two months,” Hurley said. “Ground teams are fully aware of the challenges of landing water and what it does to the human body and we just take it from there.”
In the photos: the historic SpaceX Demo-2 test with astronauts
Although NASA is eager to see the Demo-2 capsule at the bottom, scheduling the return trip is unstoppable. NASA and SpaceX base the time of the procedure on a number of weather and ocean criteria according to which of them seven dissemination sites the team ends up aiming.
Right now, those conditions are looking difficult. The National Center for Ocean Hurricanes and Ocean Administration (NOAA) is monitoring a system called Hurricane Isaias as it passes through the Caribbean Sea, moving toward Florida.
As of this morning, forecast forecast the storm will leave the east coast of Florida during the day on Sunday, with the potential to leave safe conditions on the Gulf coast, where four of the seven potential sites are located.
The astronauts said they are leaving weather concerns to staff on the spot and are willing to do what mission control advises. “We don’t control the weather and we know we can stay here longer,” Behnken said. “There’s more chow and I know the space station program has more work we can do for those [researchers] and other people who sent science here to the space station. “
A safe return to Demo-2 is the final piece of the puzzle for NASA’s approval of the upcoming launch of SpaceX crew, the company’s first full mission to the space station. Doubtful crew 1, which The mission is currently targeted launches in late September.
Crew-1 will carry three NASA astronauts – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker – and Soichi Noguchi of Japan to the space station for a stay of more than six months that will put the laboratory staff orbiting for a number of seven .
NASA also recently announced staff for the next mission, Crew-2, which will see American astronauts Megan McArthur (who is married to Behnken) and Shane Kimbrough, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet explode off Earth in 2021. That mission will use the same Endeavor Crew Dragon Capsule as the Demo-2 crew.
Email Meghan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.