After the first two NASA astronauts in space, who visited the International Space Station in a commercial vehicle, are ready to return to Earth – if the weather cooperates.
Doug Hurley and Bob Benken arrived at the International Space Station on May 31, the day after becoming the first astronaut to launch from Florida, embedded inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. But this weekend they have to solve one of the most difficult aspects of the mission: to leave the space station, spend hours inside the same capsule, parachute in the Earth’s atmosphere and spray off the coast of Florida.
“It̵7;s time to try and see how it goes,” Gurley told a news conference Friday (July 31) with his colleagues in orbit during his last full day at the space station.
Hurley and Benken are currently planning to climb into the Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday (August 1) and splash on Sunday (August 2). Their initial target of intimidation is in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama, Florida.
Related: Historic test flight SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Dragon: full coverage
The splash procedure marks the last obstacle to the duo’s mission, which has been named Demo-2, and marks the final test for the SpaceX commercial crew system. After the safe return of the company, regular business trips to the orbital laboratory should be clearly initiated.
Every step of the Demo-2 mission was important evaluation of a new spacecraft, and Benken, and Hurley, and NASA management throughout the mission emphasized that it was a test flight. The task of the astronauts was to check every aspect of the vehicle and make it ready for regular use by the crew, but it also means that they were guinea pigs of some kind throughout the mission, and this also causes them to return, although the astronauts said they were not impressed.
“As we get closer, I think we are really focusing more and more on our preparations to be ready for action,” Benken said. “I’m still not nervous about it.”
For decades, American astronauts returning from space have touched land, either to land on the runway, as in NASA spacecraft, or to parachute, as Russia’s Soyuz capsules do. The last American crew to return to the ocean did so 45 years ago, at the end Apollo Soyuz test project a mission in which astronauts met with Soviet astronauts in orbit.
“Part of its water landing is quite complex from a physiological point of view, immediately after returning from microgravity on the order of one to two months,” said Hurley. “Ground teams are fully aware of the problems of water landing and what it does for the human body, and we will just take it from there.”
In the photos: a historic test flight SpaceX Demo-2 with astronauts
Although NASA is keen to see the unlock of the Demo-2 capsule, the return schedule is not set in stone. NASA and SpaceX will build the timing of the procedure based on weather and ocean criteria, depending on which of them will be seven splash sites the team completes the orientation.
Now these conditions look difficult. The National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Atmosphere (NOAA) monitors a system called Hurricane Isaiah as it plies across the Caribbean Sea to Florida.
As of this morning, forecasts predict the storm throughout Sunday will head Florida’s east coast, potentially leaving safe conditions on the Gulf Coast, where four of the seven potential locations are located.
The astronauts said they are leaving the weather on the ground and are ready to do what the mission controls. “We don’t control the weather, and we know we can stay here longer,” Benken said. “There’s more chow, and I know the space station program has more work we can do for them [researchers] and other people who sent science here to the space station. “
Safe Return for Demo-2 is the latest piece of the puzzle for NASA’s approval of the next launch of SpaceX, the company’s first full-scale mission to the space station. Duplicate crew-1 that The mission is currently focused launch in late September.
Crew-1 will take three NASA astronauts – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker – and the Japanese Soichi Noguchi to the space station to stay longer than six months, which will put the staff of the orbital laboratory at seven.
NASA also recently announced staffing for the next mission, Crew-2, which will see American cosmonauts Megan McArthur (who is married to Benken) and Shane Kimbro, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Peske exploded in 2021. This mission will use the same Endeavor Crew Dragon capsule as the Demo-2 crew.
Email Meghan Bartels to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.