Home / Science / SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft brings four astronauts back to Earth, ending NASA’s longest space flight.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft brings four astronauts back to Earth, ending NASA’s longest space flight.

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Flying aboard SpaceX̵
7;s Crew-1 mission for NASA is astronauts (from left) Mike Hopkins, Soichi Noguchi, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover. SpaceX; NASA; Samantha Lee / Business Insider

A gill-shaped fireball was set overnight through the dark Florida skies.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying four astronauts for NASA, is preparing to plow through the atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound, deploy four parachutes as it approaches the Florida coast, and then gently glides into the ocean in about 2 hours. : 57 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The return journey has begun, a spacecraft called Resilience has retreated from the International Space Station (ISS) carrying NASA’s Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Flexibility brought these astronauts to the International Space Station in November. They have lived and worked there ever since.

Their mission, called Crew-1, has officially restored NASA’s ability to send people into space aboard a U.S. spacecraft for the first time since Space Shuttles stopped flying in 2011, a routine six-month space flight. As for NASA astronauts launched aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, but so far the US has never flown on its own long-range missions.

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Last week, 11 humans aboard the International Space Station. NASA

The Crew-1 is also SpaceX’s first daily astronaut flight for NASA.The agency has already purchased five additional Crew Dragon missions. The second, Crew-2, launched four more astronauts to the International Space Station on April 23.They arrived at the station the following morning.

Walker, Glover, Hopkins, and Noguchi greet newcomers, but the ISS gets crowded, so on Saturday evening the Crew-1 climbed back aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience to return home.

Watch the live broadcast as the Crew-1 returns to Earth.

NASA is broadcasting a nearly seven-hour expedition, including a plunge into Earth and a final splash through the live stream below, starting at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Walker, Glover, Hopkins, and Noguchi boarded the Resilience capsules and closed the cover behind them at 6:20 p.m. ET on Saturday, about two hours after checkout, the hook that kept the flexibility to the space station retracted at 20. : 35 p.m. ET with the spacecraft removed from the International Space Station. The vehicle then fired the thrust to back away.

The Crew-1 return was originally scheduled for Wednesday, then Saturday morning, but NASA postponed twice after forecasting strong winds in the splash zone.

SpaceX had previously flown humans back to Earth from the International Space Station – on a crew test flight called Demo-2 in May.The mission brought NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into orbit. They were on the International Space Station for two months before splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico.

The whole process of descent and landing is automatic. But Hurley advised the Crew-1 astronauts to make sure they “In front of the capsule,” according to Hopkins, the mission commander said.

“Preparing for the landing is just taking our steps and making sure that when we enter that sequence of events we are ready to go and we are following along with the automation. All that will take us Safe landing Hopkins told reporters following a call from the International Space Station on Monday.

If all goes well, resilience is expected to take the next few hours to orbit the Earth and move into position at 10:58 PM ET, the capsule should drop the body – the lower part where the tank is installed. Fuel, solar panels, and other hardware that is no longer required.

Then the Crew-1 astronaut might be in a bumpy state.

“The landing was – I would say it was more than Doug and I expected,” Behnken told reporters after he returned to Earth aboard the spacecraft. “Personally, I am amazed at how quickly this all happened.”

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NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft on August 2, 2020. NASA / Handout via Reuters

“It felt like we were in an animal,” he added.

Behnken also said that critical moments of the landing process, such as when the capsule detaches from the body and when the parachute is deployed, it feels. “It’s like being hit by a baseball bat in the back of a chair.”

What to expect when astronauts land

As the Resilience spacecraft approaches Earth, it is expected to continuously fire its thrust and push itself up into the atmosphere.

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An animation of Crew Dragon plowing through the atmosphere. SpaceX

Soon, the spacecraft should plunge into the atmosphere, heating the material around it to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point on the flight, Behnken said he could feel the capsule warming up and Earth’s gravity pulled him for the first time in two months. It felt like it was in a centrifuge, he added.

Crew Dragon’s heat shield, a series of heat-resistant tiles placed on the bottom of the spacecraft, had to divert the superheated material to protect the astronauts inside. After the Demo-2 landing, NASA and SpaceX found that one of those tiles was more corroded than expected, so SpaceX reinforced the heat shield with a stronger material.

When it is about 18,000 feet above the ocean, resilience should deploy four parachutes, which cause “The bumps are pretty important,” Behnken said.

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The Crew Dragon Endeavor lands in the Gulf of Mexico, sending astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley back to Earth on August 2, 2020. Bill Ingalls / NASA

Resilience should then glide gently into the ocean at 2:57 p.m. ET Sunday. The recovery team is expected to take the scorched capsule and bring the astronauts ashore.

As Behnken and Hurley returned to Earth, a visible crowd of ships approached the spacecraft dangerously after it bounced off. To prevent that from happening again, SpaceX, NASA and the Coast Guard plan to secure a 10-mile no-ship scope around the Crew-1 splash site.

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The recovery ship SpaceX GO Navigator lifts the Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule off the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, on Aug. 2, 2020. Bill Ingalls / NASA

“Landings are always dynamic, especially with capsules like this one, especially when the rails are open. That’s always exciting,” Hopkins said.

When asked what he wanted to eat when returning from the International Space Station, he replied: “If I have an appetite, that will be a bonus.”

This post has been updated with new information. First published April 26, 2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider.

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