Space Mission Completed, NASA-SpaceX Crew Scheduled to Arrive at Earth Early Morning
ISS - US astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have removed their Dragon Endeavor capsules from the international space station (ISS) to begin their return journey to Earth.
The couple is expected to descend off the coast of Florida just after 2:40 pm local time (7:40 pm BST) on Sunday, or 1:40 a.m. WIB, Monday 3 August 2020, as quoted by the BBC on Sunday (2/8/2020 ).
A successful landing means the United States once again has a fully serviceable and certified spacecraft to bring its people into orbit and back.
This ability is lost when the country 'retired' from space exploration in 2011.
US space agency NASA and its commercial partner, SpaceX, have chosen a landing location at sea, possibly in the Gulf of Mexico, the waters of Pensacola and Panama City, in western Florida.
Mission controllers follow strict guidelines on permissible wind and wave conditions, and will learn the latest forecasts before providing a final "path" to re-enter Earth.
When that happens, the Hurley and Behnken capsules will turn on the booster to start dropping out of orbit.
This is a high-speed drop, initially with a speed of several kilometers per second, and will see the Endeavor experience heating up to 2,000 C at the bottom which is protected while pushing down through the atmosphere.
Two sets of parachutes are programmed for use at an altitude of around 5,500 m, while the capsule is still moving around 560 km / hr; and then four main launchers, with a height of 1,800 m, will gently place the vehicle at sea level.
As is always the case with flights re-entering, there will be a few minutes of radio transmissions that stop when hot gas (plasma) envelops the aircraft.
It's been 45 years since the last US crew capsule made a sea landing. It was the Apollo vehicle that returned to the Pacific after meeting with the Soviet Soyuz ship on Earth.
The astronauts were launched into the space station at the end of May 2020. Their exploration of the Falcon-9 rocket, also provided by SpaceX, ushered in a new era in spaceflight in the United States.
NASA has decided not to own and operate crew transportation hardware in low Earth orbit, preferring to buy this service from commercial partners.
The California SpaceX Company is the first provider. Most of the hardware, including parts of Falcon rockets, can be reused.
This approach has reduced mission operational costs, said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"Basically we set high-level criteria, requirements, in terms of payload and safety, but we are not involved in designing everything downstream. We allow private companies to work and innovate. That ultimately drives us to the point where we are now reusing "This rocket, reusing capsules, and of course, we want to apply that to what we did with the (mission to) the Moon and finally Mars," the official explained.
The Boeing Company also developed a "taxi service" to the space station, but had to postpone its introduction after encountering software problems with its Starliner capsules.
Assuming that the latest overall mission was successful, NASA will move forward with routine "operational" SpaceX flights, perhaps in early September.
Endeavor will be revised with the hope that it will skyrocket again next year.
The next mission crew, by chance, will include astronaut Megan McArthur, wife of Bob Behnken.
The husband said he would have some tips on the best place to pack personal items in capsules.
"Just like on any trip, if you pack things properly, it can be fun," he joked.
"But if you pack everything at the bottom of the big van that you take on vacation, and you have to take it all out one at a different time, it can be tiring and eat your pleasure."
Hurley and Behnken brought back the US warning flag left on the space station by the last shuttle mission crew (who happened to include Doug Hurley).
The US flag also flew on the first space shuttle mission in 1981. It was expected to return to space again when America returned astronauts to the Moon later this decade.