SpaceX Astronauts Return to Earth After 62 Days in Orbit

Monday, 03 Aug, 2020

SpaceX and NASA have made history once again, successfully completing the crucial final phase of their Demo-2 mission for the Crew Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX's first spacecraft made for human flight.

The mission marked the first time a crewed spaceship had launched into orbit from American soil since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended. -Soviet mission known as Apollo-Soyuz. It will mark the first splashdown in 45 years for NASA astronauts and the first return in the gulf.

Behnken and Hurley will have a few hours for sleep during their journey home in the capsule, which will gradually decrease its orbital altitude through a series of automated thruster firings. As soon as Behnken and Hurley undock from the house station, they'll spend the subsequent 18 hours in orbit, slowly distancing themselves from the ISS, earlier than making the dive into Earth's environment.

Meanwhile, at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., mission controllers wore masks at their workstations, due to COVID-19. But then they were back in contact, as the first views of their capsule appeared on video.

For the past nine years, United States astronauts traveled exclusively on Russian Soyuz rockets, for a price of around $80 million per seat. "And you also have to build it better, and you have to build it more robustly for a vehicle that you know that you're going to need to use multiple times".

Prior to undocking, NASA and SpaceX held a meeting to jointly decide on the weather outlook in the landing zone off the coast of Panama City, Florida. After the separation is complete, Crew Dragon should hurtle towards Earth at up to 17,500 miles per hour, or almost 23 times the speed of sound. That is because the Crew Dragon is packing an emergency abort system.

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.

A Crew Dragon recovered after an unpiloted test flight past year is hauled aboard a SpaceX recovery ship, mirroring operations planned for the first recovery of a piloted Crew Dragon.

NASA and SpaceX chose a site off the coast of Pensacola on Florida's Panhandle, rather than more easterly candidates, to stay far away from the track of Tropical Storm Isaias along Florida's East Coast.

"We have plenty of opportunities here in August and we're in no hurry to come home", Nasa's commercial crew manager Steve Stich said, adding the next return opportunity opens tomorrow should Isaias force a delay.

Recovery ships at splashdown sites will have personnel, including spacecraft engineers, trained water recovery experts, medical professionals, the ship's crew, cargo experts and others to assist in the recovery, said NASA. The capsule was hoisted aboard the SpaceX recovery ship Go Navigator. A recovery boat station in the Gulf and staffed by NASA and SpaceX personnel will scoop up the capsule and astronauts.

The pair blasted off from Cape Canaveral on May 30 and are set to splash down on Sunday.