While the International Space Station (ISS) may have been around for more than 20 years, the successful landing of NASA and the SpaceX manned Dragon spacecraft this weekend is still making history,media reported. It’s a huge milestone in NASA’s commercial crew program, marking the first commercially built and operational U.S. crew spacecraft to and from ISS.
Previously, the spacecraft’s return to Earth was not thought to have occurred on Sunday.
The manned dragon spacecraft — including astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley — left the station on Saturday, but NASA and SpaceX are still closely monitoring the weather forecast to determine if the dragon spacecraft has a chance to land.
Tropical storms in the Caribbean are a major risk, with strong winds, waves and limited visibility threatening the Dragon spacecraft and its parachutes, as well as ships and helicopters that NASA and SpaceX plan to use to pick up astronauts and capsules. The ship had at least three days of supplies in isolation from isses, but it turned out to be useless.
Instead, it was a dramatic descent — a manned dragon spacecraft passing through the Earth’s atmosphere and heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. Two sets of parachutes used to control the speed were eventually retracted. Finally, at 2:48 p.m. EST on Sunday, NASA’s video showed its spacecraft splashing into the ocean.
It is understood that the two astronauts spent a total of 62 days on the International Space Station. In addition to testing on the Dragon spacecraft Endeavour, they also participated in various experiments and several spacewalks on the weightlessness science platform.
At the same time, the Dragon spacecraft was taken to SpaceX’s GO Navigator recycling ship and will spend the next few months at the company’s Florida plant. There, SpaceX will screen the capsule’s data and systems in preparation for the upcoming Crew-1 mission, and the company plans to continue working with NASA later in 2020.
The Crew-1 is a key difference from this Demo-2 flight: Although Behnken and Hurley were both in the Dragon spacecraft Endeavour during the departure and return flights, their ultimate goal was to replace American astronauts on iss with SpaceX as a space shuttle. That is, two astronauts will be launched, and then the two astronauts on the space station will use the capsule to return to Earth with test results and other cargo.
Clearly, that’s not all SpaceX and NASA’s all-in-one ambitions for spacecraft technology, and their goal is to develop a spacecraft that will eventually send humans to Mars, a challenge NASA hopes will accomplish sometime in 2030. “It proves that we can do it when we work together to do something that was once considered impossible,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said of the latest milestone. Partners are key to how we can go further than ever and take a bold erstonal mission to the moon and Mars. “