US astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley should land in the Gulf of Mexico with the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The landing of a manned mission at sea is to be the first in 45 years for American astronautics.
Behnken and Hurley arrived at the International Space Station on May 31. For the first time in nine years since the end of the shuttle program, American astronauts flew an American ship from the United States. Moreover, for the first time, such a manned flight was directed by a private company and not a government space agency.
The astronauts set out on their return journey today at 01:34 Central European Time. If the end of the journey with landing is successful, it will mean the end of the American dependence on Russian missiles and Soyuz ships.
The landing is planned on the northwest coast of Florida, near the Florida city of Panama City. However, astronauts may be thwarted by Hurricane Isaias, which is now advancing across the Bahamas to the east coast of Florida.
“In good weather, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and SpaceX plan to land at sea and end the mission on August 2 at 14:42 local time (20:42 CEST),” NASA said in a statement.
Who are Behnken and Hurley?
– The main task of the astronauts and the goal of the whole mission is mainly to definitively complete the testing of the ship Crew Dragon. Astronauts in orbit have tested the ship’s manual control and a number of other tests. Then they joined the International Space Station (ISS).
– Both veterans were still on Space Shuttle flights. Douglas flew the space shuttle Endeavor in 2009 and Atlantis two years later. Behnken was aboard the Endeavor in 2008 and then again in 2010.
– The ship’s captain is 53-year-old Douglas Hurley.
After the Crew Dragon lands on the water, it will take about an hour for the ship to be lifted by a crane onto a SpaceX vessel, where the astronauts will disembark. Behnken and Hurley said that one of the common inconveniences of landing on water is nausea while waiting on swaying sea waves. Hurley recalled that these discomforts were also felt by astronauts returning from the first American Skylab orbital station in the early 1970s.
If the astronauts manage to transport the Crew Dragon to Earth in order, this apparatus will serve another space mission next spring. Four astronauts should be on board, including Behnken’s wife Megan McArthur. The next manned flight is planned by SpaceX at the end of September.