Friday, 07 August, 2020

Nasa astronauts set for first splashdown return in 45 years

SpaceX's Crew Dragon uses four parachutes for a splashdown March 2019 SpaceX's Crew Dragon uses four parachutes for a splashdown March 2019
Cecil Davis | 02 August, 2020, 06:19

After a review of the latest forecast for the waters off the coast of Florida, and taking into account the seven possible splashdown locations, it has been made a decision to proceed with plans to bring astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley back to earth aboard the SpaceX Endeavor Crew Dragon this weekend, now targeting for the departure to occur at 7:34 p.m. EDT, Saturday, Aug. 1, with splashdown estimated at 2:42 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 2. Then rescue crews will have to quickly recover the vehicle from the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico in what would be the first water landing for United States astronauts since a joint U.S-Soviet mission in 1975.

The Soyuz 23 mission in October 1976 accidentally landed in Lake Tengiz in the middle of blizzard.

NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing for US-based crew transport after the space shuttles retired in 2011.

Endeavour launched into space from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 30 May 2020 carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert "Bob" Behnken as part of Demo-2, the first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle.

The astronauts' homecoming will cap a mission that ended a prolonged launch drought in the USA, which has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the end of the shuttle era.

Live coverage of the Dragon's return is due to continue through splashdown. Eastern and started to maneuver away from the station.

SpaceX and Nasa have begun the return flight of two astronauts from the International Space Station while keeping an eye on Hurricane Isaias, which has since weakened to a tropical storm. NASA could extend that slightly, said Steve Stich, the agency's commercial crew program manager.

A successful splashdown, Behnken said, will bring US -crew launching capability "full circle".

During their time aboard the Station, Bob and Doug took part in scientific experiments and maintenance of the ISS, including four spacewalks which were carried out by Behnken and Expedition 63 Commander Christopher Cassidy.

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If the weather poses a problem, NASA will delay undocking from the ISS to Monday, for a Tuesday arrival.

The departure on the same day has been scheduled for 4.34 pm PT.

Between 8:25 pm and 9:15 pm EDT (00:25 to 01:15 UTC on 2 August), Dragon will perform two more of these burns, each time pushing it further and further away from the laboratory it, and its crew, have called home for the past two months.

"Not intuitive, but Isaias may actually help make nice weather on landing a few hundred miles west, " Zebulon Scoville, NASA's flight director, wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. At least one other of the seven total landing sites must be clear for Crew Dragon's splash down too, though.

But scientists will be closely monitoring the weather, as Hurricane Isaias barrels through the Bahamas and heads to the eastern coast of Florida.

The Crew Dragon is expected to splash down off the Florida coast on Sunday at 2:42 p.m. ET.

After splashdown, it will take an hour or so before the capsule is hauled by crane onto a SpaceX recovery ship, where the hatch will be opened and the astronauts will get out. There, the crew will emerge from the capsule and receive all necessary medical test and checkouts.

NASA and SpaceX will aim for no more than 60 minutes from splashdown to crew egress of Dragon.