SpaceX made history May 30th this year when Falcon 9 took off from American soil carrying astronauts to the International Space Station ( ISS) aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. It was the first time in nearly a decade that humans launched from the United States. The successful Demo-2 mission demonstrates that Dragon can transport a crew to space in a reliable manner. NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley packed their bags to return aboard Crew Dragon, following a two-month stay at the orbiting laboratory. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go… #LandAmerica,” Behnken captioned an image of everything that will return to Earth, pictured below.
A historic US flag that Hurley left at the space station in 2011, during the last Space Shuttle flight, will come along with them. Returning the flag to Earth is indicative of the start of a new age of American spaceflight. – “This flag has spent some time up here, on the order of 9 years… I’m very proud to return this flag home and see what’s next for it on its journey to the Moon,” Hurley said this morning, August 1st, during a farewell ceremony. In the Artemis mission, the agency plans to fly the flag to the Moon again.
“…We’re about to embark on the final portion of the journey… The hardest part was getting us launched, but the most important part is bringing us home,” Behnken said, “I look forward to the test objectives not only separating from the International Space Station smoothly, but then coming down to a nice splashdown off the Florida coast to come full circle with bringing that capability to launch astronauts again to the United States.”
SpaceX and NASA will livestream the return journey of the astronauts beginning at 5:15pm EDT. Live broadcasting can last about 19 hours. It will be the first time that SpaceX returns humans from space. Now that Dragon Endeavour has undocked, they will perform a series of phasing burns to match with the splashdown site, then discard its trunk to prepare for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere as Crew Dragon enters the Earth’s atmosphere with Astronauts Behnken and Hurley onboard. It will fly at an orbital speed of about 17,500 miles. Then it will experience a maximum temperature of approximately 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it re-enters the atmosphere. “The re-entry creates a communications blackout between the spacecraft and Earth that is expected to last approximately six minutes,” the agency shared. As Dragon approaches Earth’s atmosphere, its series of drogue parachutes will be deployed at around 18,000 feet above ground as it falls at 350 miles per hour. Dragon’s four primary parachutes must deploy at 6,000-feet as it flies at 119 miles per hour to perform a soft-landing in the ocean.
SpaceX retrieval teams must wait to evacuate the astronauts as soon as possible after arrival in the ocean at the landing zones. The company has fitted two recovery ships named ‘Go Searcher’ and ‘Go Navigator’ with a helicopter landing pad and a first responder medical room to assist needs of the astronauts upon their return from space. “On either ship will be more than 40 personnel from SpaceX and NASA, made up of spacecraft engineers, trained water recovery experts, medical professionals, the ship’s crew, NASA cargo experts, and others to assist in the recovery,” the agency said. “The main recovery vessel can move in and begin to hoist the Crew Dragon capsule onto the main deck. Once the capsule is on the recovery vessel, it is moved to a stable location for the hatch to be opened for waiting medical professionals to conduct initial checks and assist Behnken and Hurley out of Dragon Endeavour.”
Watch Demo-2 mission return coverage in the video below. Schedule is in Eastern Time.
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