SpaceX-NASA Crew-1 astronauts returned from the ISS – here’s what happened

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The astronauts – NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese space agency astronaut – boarded their Crew Dragon capsule on Friday afternoon, and they spent the night on board of the fully self-contained 13-foot-wide capsule. he conducted a series of engine burns and maneuvers to prepare for re-entry.

The spacecraft fired its engines to retreat into Earth’s thick interior atmosphere around 2 a.m. ET, and the capsule deployed a series of inflated parachutes to slow its descent before splashing out off Panama City, in Florida at 2:56 a.m.

The safe return of the astronauts marks the end of the historic NASA and SpaceX mission, dubbed Crew-1, which set a record for the longest time in space – more than 5 months – by a crew that embarked on an American-built spacecraft.

The spacecraft becomes extremely hot due to the friction of air molecules rubbing against its exterior, although a thick heat shield will protect the astronauts inside as the vehicle roars towards its target: “It doesn’t look like a machine. It looks like an animal, “Behnken told reporters last year.

A brigade of salvage ships were waiting to pull the Crew Dragon out of the ocean, moving quickly as the floating waves can cause severe seasickness for astronauts. When asked what meal he was looking forward to when he got home, Hopkins admitted at a press conference Monday that he likely wouldn’t feel up to a gourmet meal.

The capsule, with the astronauts on board, was lifted from the Gulf of Mexico onto a ship
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“If I have an appetite, it’s going to be a bonus,” Hopkins said at a remote press conference Monday.

Glover made history with this mission: in addition to being his first flight in space, he became the first black person to occupy a long-term assignment on the ISS.

“One thing that really left a mark on me was the very first time I got up from the seat after [our spacecraft] was in orbit safely, and I looked out the window and saw Earth 250 miles high, “Glover said at a remote press conference ahead of Saturday’s splashdown.” I will never forget that moment … It wasn’t about the sight. . It was what the sight made me feel … the Earth is amazing. It’s beautiful. He protects us and so we have to work hard to protect him. “

Ahead of their November launch, the Crew-1 team named their Crew Dragon spacecraft “Resilience” after the NASA and SpaceX teams who worked during a pandemic to get their mission off the ground as well as the global public. , who fought against Covid. -19 as well as a widespread account of racial injustices in the months leading up to the launch of Crew-1.

Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after landing

Glover said the crew took the resilience mantra with them during their time in space, noting that he had to take an unexpected space walk for minor repairs outside the lab: “Resilience is one of the most important aspects of this period of business and exploration, ”Glover said Monday.

The United States spent nearly a decade without the ability to launch astronauts into space after the Space Shuttle program was withdrawn in 2011, and NASA was forced to rely on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to bring astronauts at the ISS, which the space agency says left the multibillion-dollar orbiting Laboratory understaffed. No fewer than 13 astronauts were on board at the same time in 2009. That number has sometimes dropped to three on multiple occasions, leaving fewer people to help run experiments and help keep the space station well maintained. With the latest SpaceX missions, however, the staff has become 11.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule splashed in the Gulf of Mexico shortly before 3 a.m. ET on Sunday

SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which, for the first time in the history of the space agency, entrusted much of the design, development and testing of new human-class spacecraft to the private sector. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing fixed price contracts worth $ 2.6 billion and $ 4.2 billion, respectively, to do the job. Development of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is still delayed due to major software issues detected during a test mission last year, but officials say the vehicle could be ready this year.

NASA has long waited for the ability to take full control of the staffing of the US-controlled portion of the ISS, and the entry into operation of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has already dramatically increased the number of searches. that can be conducted aboard the two-decade-old lab. .

The experiments Crew-1 astronauts have been working on include research into how microgravity affects human heart tissue. They also conducted space walks to improve and repair the exterior of the space station, and they grew radishes to build on studies designed to understand how food could be grown to support missions to deep space exploration.

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