Four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts are making final preparations ahead of their return to Earth this weekend. Some of the Expedition 65 crew members staying behind on the International Space Station are relaxing today while others are focusing on science and lab maintenance.
Mission managers have decided to send Crew Dragon Resilience and its four astronauts back to Earth on Sunday. Resilience will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter during an automated maneuver on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. EDT. It will splashdown about six-and-a-half hours later in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.
Hatch closure of the Resilience will be on Saturday at 6:20 p.m. with NASA TV beginning its broadcast at 6 p.m. Live continuous coverage of the undocking and splashdown activities starts at 8:15 p.m.
Resilience Commander Michael Hopkins and Pilot Victor Glover are finishing packing up personal items and emergency hardware inside Resilience today. They were assisted by Crew-1 Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi who also loaded science freezers filled with research samples inside the Crew Dragon. When the Crew-1 astronauts land they will have spent 168 days in space since launching to the station on Nov. 15 last year.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who rode to space aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship, processed samples for the Food Physiology experiment amidst a mostly slow day for him. Glover finalized his science work early Friday as he collected and stowed his blood and urine samples for later analysis.
The station’s two cosmonauts, Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, stayed focused on maintenance in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. The duo worked on power connections, ventilation systems and computer hardware throughout Friday.
Technician Ricky Hall of NASA’s Langley Research Center hand-glued 250 grains of sand across a 22-inch long model of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft with meticulous effort and attention to detail. To learn more about the partnership watch the video below or read the feature story here.
Working in wind tunnels, software laboratories and work stations across America, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners continue to make strides in advancing the designs of the American spacecraft and rockets that will carry humans safely and reliably into low-Earth orbit from U.S. soil by 2017.
Blue Origin, The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are accomplishing milestones established through Space Act Agreements as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 and Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiatives.
CCP’s engineering team is working closely with its partners as they develop the next generation of crewed spacecraft and work toward challenging evaluations and tests this year. Ultimately, NASA intends to certify and use American-made commercial systems to fly astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station, and back, ending our sole reliance on Russia to get to space.
“What we have seen from our industry partners is a determination to make their components and systems work reliably, and in turn they’ve been able to demonstrate the complex machinery that makes spaceflight possible will also work as planned,” said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager. “These next few months will continue to raise the bar for achievement by our partners.”
One of the new experiments aboard the International Space Station can now be watched live by anyone on Earth with an Internet connection. The research is part of a project called High Definition Earth Viewing, or HDEV. Four commercially available cameras carried to the station on the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission have been installed on the outside of the station and viewers can watch the feeds as they automatically scan through various angles to show different views of Earth from the orbiting laboratory.
Although they are enclosed in special cases, the cameras are exposed to the vacuum and radiation of space so researchers on Earth can note whether the pictures degrade over time and how badly. You can watch the live stream online at here. You can read more about HDEV here.
HDEV was one of several new research projects recently carried to the one-of-a-kind science center orbiting about 260 miles over Earth. Numerous experiment aboard the station are conducted daily by astronauts while others are run automatically. You can read more details about station research here.
CCP’s new manager, Kathy Lueders, will appear on NASA TV Friday at 11 a.m. on Space Station Live to discuss the Commercial Crew Program and its role in NASA’s stepping stone path to human exploration of space. Lueders played a large part in developing the successful cargo delivery framework that is using privately owned rockets and spacecraft to carry equipment, experiments and supplies to the International Space Station. You can tune in to NASA TV at 11 to see the interview or watch the stream at nasa.gov/ntv.
Astronauts take personal mementos with them into space to help mark the occasion. The tradition started in 1961 when Gus Grissom stashed a roll of dimes in his Mercury flight suit. Since then, personal and historic items – all very small and lightweight – have made trips into space, some going as far as landing on the moon with the Apollo astronauts. What would you take with you into space? What would you take for a friend?
CCP’s industry partners continue to make great strides as they design the next-generation of human spacecraft. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk released this photo yesterday of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The unusual feature is the landing legs on the side of the rocket. According to Musk, they are 60 feet in diameter. He said the booster will still land in the ocean, but will attempt what’s known as a soft landing instead of simply plummeting as such stages have done until now. The exception is the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters which parachuted into the water and were recovered for reuse. Musk has said before that his goal is to bring the spent first stage back to a soft landing on a runway or similar facility so the booster and its 9 engines can be used again. Musk ended his posts saying the company needs to prove precision control of the stage throughout the deceleration from hypersonic to subsonic speeds. There is no word whether this innovation is anticipated for crew-carrying missions as it is clearly early in the test phases of development.