The commercially chartered Crew Dragon spacecraft entered the atmosphere and splashed down off the east coast of Florida on Friday, bringing four private astronauts back to Earth in its wake..
With commander Michael López-Alegría and Italian co-pilot Walter Villadei monitoring cockpit displays, with sidekicks Marcus Wandt of Sweden and Alper Gezeravci of Turkey, the Crew Dragon’s brake rockets fired at 7:42 am EST, slowing the ship just enough to fall far. side of its orbit deep into the atmosphere.
Descending a southwest-to-northeast path across Central America and the Florida peninsula, the Crew Dragon’s heat shield protected the craft from temperatures exceeding 3,000 degrees as the capsule rapidly decelerated in a blaze of atmospheric friction.
Approaching the landing zone east of Daytona Beach, two small drogue thrusters were deployed to stabilize the spacecraft, followed by the ship’s four main parachutes, which lowered the Crew Dragon to a ready splashdown at 8:30 a.m. Ba the duration of the mission is 21 days and 15 hours.
“Welcome home,” radioed a flight controller. “Thank you for flying SpaceX.”
“It was a great pleasure for us,” replied López-Alegría. Despite the capsule moving on a gently rolling sea, he reported that the four crew members were feeling well as they began their re-adjustment to gravity after three weeks away from the planet.
SpaceX’s recovery ship was in position and within half an hour, the capsule was hauled aboard so technicians could open its side hatch and help the returning space shuttles exit, one by one, for checks. initial medical.
All four were in good spirits, able to stand upright with the help of recovery personnel as they adjusted to the familiar pull of gravity.
It was the third – and longest – “private astronaut mission” chartered by Houston-based Axiom Space in a NASA-sanctioned program to encourage private sector use of the International Space Station.
Axiom is using Crew Dragon flights to ISS to develop procedures and experience needed to operate a commercial space station that the company plans to begin building in the coming years.
from the Kennedy Space Center, López-Alegría, a retired NASA astronaut, Villadei, Wandt and Gezeravci were originally planned to spend only two weeks on board the station, returning to Earth on February 3.
But high winds in the splash zones of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean forced the crew to stay in orbit an extra six days when all was said and done, releasing on Wednesday and then flying alone for nearly two day to achieve the right trajectory. for re-entry on Friday.
The splash appeared to have ended with ease, clearing the way for NASA and SpaceX to move forward with two major missions amid a steady stream of Starlink launches.
On February 14, SpaceX plans tobuilt by Intuitive Machines of Houston in a NASA-funded project to collect data on conditions near the moon’s south pole as the agency ascends toward in the coming years.
Once that mission gets off the ground, SpaceX will shift gears and prepare another Falcon 9 to launch at the end of the month from the same Kennedy Space Center pad to carry four long-term crew members to the International Space Station.
Crew 8 commander Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt, Jeanette Epps and cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin will join Crew 7 commander Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov aboard the ISS, along with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko Nikolai, Chub and NASA’s Loral O’Hara.
There was a team of 7with SpaceX followed by Kononenko, Chubb and O’Hara aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Moghbeli and her colleagues plan to go home in early March. The ISS crew will then await the arrival in late March of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying former cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, Belarusian guest astronaut Marina Vasilevskaya and NASA veteran Tracy Dyson.
Novitskiy, Vasilevskaya and O’Hara will return to Earth on April 2, leaving Dyson behind on the ISS with Kononenko and Chub, who are both spending a full year in space. Dyson will join them to return to Earth in September.
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