Two NASA astronauts have arrived and stayed on the International Space Station for a month, and their historic mission has been largely completed, and are now preparing for the return of a manned dragon spacecraft from SpaceX, a US space exploration technology company.
For the past month, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have been working as planned. Benken has already carried out two spacewalks, and Hurley has turned his tweets into an amazing exhibition of Earth art photography.
At the same time, the two men are keeping a close eye on the health of the manned dragon spacecraft that will be sent to the International Space Station and will return to Earth in a few weeks, the most dangerous second phase of their historic test mission.
On May 30, Benken and Hurley aboard the SpaceX-made Manned Dragon spacecraft, becoming the first NASA astronauts to fly a commercial rocket to the International Space Station. A day after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center, the manned Dragon spacecraft automatically docked with the International Space Station, and Benken and Hurley were warmly welcomed by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner.
The flight marked the end of NASA’s long launch dormant period. NASA has not sent humans into space from the U.S. mainland since it was retired in 2011. “Of course, the most important thing for me and Hurley is that after years of research on the new spacecraft, we’re back on board the Isson through the hatches,” Benken said in an interview on the International Space Station this week.
Since then, Benken and Cassidy have made two spacewalks, successfully replacing batteries outside the International Space Station. During the spacewalk, they saw the manned Dragon spacecraft dock with the space station, and Cassidy turned around and took a photo. “It’s great to be able to look back and take pictures, and I think we’ve got a good daylight picture,” Benken said.
Hurley spent a considerable amount of time on the Dome of the International Space Station, a small compartment with six windows with the best view of space. As the station orbited the Earth every 90 minutes at 28,163 km/h, Hurley took stunning pictures from all angles and posted them to his Twitter account.
On Thursday, local time, Hurley released a photo of the Earth transitioning from day to night, highlighting the half-light and half-dark scene. Hurley’s wife, Karen Nyberg, a retired NASA astronaut, wrote on Twitter: “Look at the atmosphere, it’s so beautiful blue, so thin. Hurley took many beautiful pictures of the Earth from the space station. They remind me that this magical home belongs to all of us. “
NASA hailed the spaceX manned launch as the beginning of a new era of human space flight. In this new era, the private sector will play a greater role. U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch, and then Trump declared it a “victory for America.
Now, NASA and the astronauts are turning their attention to returning home. Currently, NASA says Benken and Hurley could return to Earth as early as August 2. If all goes well, the manned dragon spacecraft will leave the space station, ignite the thrusters, and then spill through the atmosphere into the ocean.
In fact, the entire mission was to test the performance of the SpaceX manned Dragon spacecraft, and while NASA says its lift-off process is flawless, there are still many risks ahead.
First, when the manned dragon spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere, the increasingly thick air creates friction, which in turn produces huge amounts of heat, testing the spacecraft’s heat shield. Second, the spacecraft’s parachute will be opened to slow it down further. SpaceX, however, has had many difficulties in parachute design in the past, and even Musk laments that it is too difficult.
Another risk is splashing in the ocean. U.S. astronauts haven’t splashed in the water since 1975 because both the space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft landed on land. Benken said he and Hurley were expected to float on the sea for about an hour before being lifted onto the deck.
SpaceX has been extensively training in the recovery capsule mission, trying to get astronauts to safety as quickly as possible, but this will also be a key test. “I’m not too nervous about it, ” says Mr Benken. But both I and Hurley need to make sure we’re ready, and if the rescue operation doesn’t go as well as expected, we’ll end up in the capsule for longer. We need to be at our best in the process and be physically and mentally prepared. ” (Small)