After six months in orbit, four astronauts make up SpaceX Crew-1 The mission is ready to go home.
NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi lived and worked for International space station from November. They arrived at the orbital outpost aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the company’s first full mission to the station, and just last week they welcomed their replacement for Crew-2. Now it’s time to get back to Earth, the quartet will take off on Wednesday (April 28).
“We’re happy about both, and each is a little different,” Walker said during a press conference on Monday (April 26) when asked to compare launch and landing. “Now that we’re driving home, it’s exciting because we don’t really know what to expect when we parachute down on the water like this, and it’s just thrilling that we go home and see our friends and family.”
On photos: SpaceX Crew-1 Mission to the International Space Station
Despite the optimism, the weather could keep astronauts in space a little longer than planned, as NASA and SpaceX monitor conditions in the capsule splash zones off the coast of Florida.
But on any day Crew 1 returns, the astronauts will have good advice from the only people who have returned to Earth in a SpaceX capsule to date. Demo 2 test mission Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. The crew is ready for “dynamic” arrival, especially when the parachutes are deployed, Hopkins said during a press conference, adding that he would be happy if he had an appetite when the capsule was sprayed.
“With this new vehicle, and not often landing before [the important thing] just making sure you get ahead of the capsule, ”Hopkins said,“ Hurley recommended. “This is what we have all focused on in the last few days, preparing for this landing, just reviewing our procedures and checking when we get into the sequence of events for which we are ready.”
NASA is also learning from its previous experiences. Hurley and Behnken were met a flotilla of private boatmenand the agency said it is working with the Coast Guard to keep these boats at a safe distance from the capsule this time around. Hopkins noted that during splashdown, the key risk is fuel leakage from the capsule, and on this front, the astronauts inside the capsule are much safer than any homeless boatmen in the vicinity.
Meanwhile, the astronauts recalled their brightest moments of nearly six months in orbit. Glover, the pioneer of spaceflight, gave the most comprehensive answer. “Everything we’ve done here was the first time for me,” he said.
Yet one thing stood out: his first glimpse of Earth from orbit.
“I will never forget this moment, and I really recorded it because I really wanted to remember how I felt. It wasn’t about the sight, but how the sight made me feel, ”he said. “Every time I look out the Dome’s window, I feel the same way. The earth is amazing, it is beautiful, it protects us, and therefore we must work hard to protect it.
Hopkins also brought glances – for him, from an impromptu bunk on board Crew Dragon Fortitude – in addition to a short space flight the crew made earlier this month to move the capsule between the docking ports. Meanwhile, Walker alluded to the camaraderie of the international crew, and Noguchi’s favorite moment was greeting the astronauts of Crew 2 just days before.
The Crew-1 astronauts also noted that they were able to speak to predecessors who took part in NASA’s 1970s Skylab mission, which set the record for the longest space flight on a U.S. spacecraft so far. Crew-1 flight won the title with a span more than twice as long.
“We really had the opportunity to speak to one of the astronauts and it was absolutely fantastic,” Hopkins said. “The record that they set, I think, is really very significant, especially when you think about how long it lasted. I don’t think our record will last that long – and that’s good too. “
Perhaps the most striking quality of the Crew-1’s journey home is that COVID-19 pandemic it continued to haunt the Earth. “I know we all hoped that when we land, the pandemic will be at a different stage,” Walker said. “And people in the US are getting vaccinated, so things are going better.”
But the Crew-1 team will return to a variety of defensive measures they didn’t need in orbit. First, the standard: “In fact, we will be in semi-quarantine, like before launch, because when we return, our immune system will be a little suppressed,” Walker said.
“We definitely enjoyed not wearing masks here,” she said, but the team will wear them again on Earth. “This is the right thing to do.” And since the US vaccination campaign began about a month after Crew 1 left Earth, astronauts can count on vaccinations. Walker said NASA flight doctors told the crew-1 astronauts that they would be vaccinated within seven to ten days of landing.
And, of course, astronauts need to adapt to the pandemic. Glover noted that after splashdown, the team’s first priority will be to see their families and spend about six weeks getting them. bodies are used to gravity again…
The astronauts will then hit the road to discuss the mission with partner agencies and the public – and, of course, they’ll start wondering if there might be another space flight in their future, be it on the Crew Dragon or another spacecraft.
“The dragon is a wonderful vehicle and I would be happy to fly many times, but the same applies to space shuttle and Union“said Noguchi, the first non-US astronaut to fly all three of these vehicles.” I will be happy to fly three complex spacecraft, but now the race is about who will be the first of them. fly the fourth other type. “(The next orbiter that humans will fly will most likely be the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, possibly at the end of this yearand then NASA’s Orion Crew capsule.)
But, most likely, none of them will be picky. “You won’t give up on going into space,” Glover said.
Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@ or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.