The first USA astronauts to reach the International Space Station on an American spacecraft in almost a decade prepared Saturday for their return home, which is tentatively on schedule for the weekend despite the arrival of Hurricane Isaias off Florida.
The plan could be adjusted, before or after the docking, if the weather forecast changes. If the Isaias forces a delay, the return opportunity opens on Monday. NASA has set a maximum wind limit of 10.2 miles an hour, as well as limits for wave size and frequency for the descent and landing.
The vehicle and its two astronaut crew are scheduled to leave the International Space Station (ISS) on 1 August at 7:34 pm EDT (23:34 UTC) ahead of splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Russian rockets were the only way for astronauts to get to the space station until SpaceX became the first private company to launch humans into orbit two months ago.
Elon Musk's SpaceX easily beat Boeing, which isn't expected to launch its first crew until next year and will land in the U.S. Southwest. SpaceX's next astronaut flight is targeted for the end of September.
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From here, Endeavour is scheduled to remain in free flight for over twelve hours, following which - weather permitting -Bob, Doug, and Endeavour will begin their final preparations for their return to Earth.
"The teams are working really hard, especially with the dynamics of the weather over the next few days around Florida", he said. The vehicle will drop at 25 times the speed of sound. The four main parachutes deploy at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.
NASA managers say the Crew Dragon has chalked up a near flawless flight, setting the stage for re-entry and splashdown.
The game plan calls for the Dragon to be hoisted aboard the main recovery ship with a crane, and then for Behnken and Hurley to be extracted from the capsule for the return to shore. US military aircraft in Hawaii and SC are prepared to fly a search and rescue mission, if necessary. This was the first time a privately made vehicle took people to space.
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"The water landing portion of it is pretty challenging from a physiological standpoint, just after coming back from being in microgravity", Hurley, a veteran of two shuttle missions, told reporters in a phone briefing on Friday.
SpaceX's initially Crew Dragon pill to bring NASA astronauts will undock from the International Space Station tonight (Aug 1), setting the phase for a historical weekend splashdown. The American astronauts launched on the groundbreaking test mission from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30th, part of the final test sequence for the crew transportation capsule.
Crew members for that mission are to be NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Boeing plans a second uncrewed test flight of its Starliner vehicle later this year after a failed attempt in December.
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