The The first US astronauts to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) on a US spacecraft in a decade departed Saturday in the SpaceX capsule on their way to Earth despite the risk of a Florida hurricane.
“And finally they left,” NASA tweeted announcing that Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley They had left the ISS, after having released images showing how the capsule detaches itself from the device without problems in the darkness of space.
The decoupling was done in two stages, two months after the arrival of both men aboard the capsule created by the company of eccentric businessman Elon Musk, the US space agency said, adding that the capsule had taken “a safe path.”
The landing is scheduled for Sunday at 14:41 (Chilean time) in the Gulf of Mexico. It was kept in western Florida at a time when Tropical Storm Isaias, which could again become a hurricane, threatens the eastern shores of the southeastern peninsula of the United States.
A site on the coasts of the city of Pensacola (North Florida) was chosen as a “priority” for the landing, with an alternative in the vicinity of Panama City, also in the Gulf of Mexico, if the sea is very rough or the winds are very strong.
A few hours earlier, both astronauts had said goodbye to the three colleagues they left on the ISS, although there was still some uncertainty regarding their trip given the weather conditions in Florida.
“The most difficult thing was to get into orbit, but the most important thing is to return home”Behnken said a few hours before departure.
The operation is delicate, although last year the Dragon capsule accomplished this mission without problems. The atmospheric return will test the resistance of the heat shield. Then large parachutes will slow down the descent into the ocean.
AN INGRÁVIDO DINOSAUR
Addressing her son and her colleague’s son, Behnken exhibited a small colored dinosaur, which the children had given them to accompany them on this “historical mission”, and made it fly for a few moments.
“Tremor the apatosaurus returns home with his parents,” Behnken told the children, surrounded by his two Russian colleagues, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, and the mission chief, Captain Chris Cassidy.
“We say goodbye to our two friends and colleagues,” Cassidy said, declaring himself “sad” and “excited” to see Hurley and Behnken depart from the ISS, stressing the importance of having new means of transporting astronauts.
Behnken and Hurley have become the first astronauts to be taken to the ISS, located 400 km from Earth, by a private company hired by NASA.
The mission, whose departure had been postponed due to meteorological reasons, was the first of a manned ship launched from US soil.. The last one had been in 2011 when the space shuttle program ended.
In the past nine years, American astronauts had traveled exclusively on Russian Soyuz rockets, for a price of about $ 80 million per seat.
If the current mission is certified safe, the United States will no longer depend on Russia to access space.
For $ 3 billion, agreed since 2011 under a fixed-price contract, SpaceX promised NASA six round trips to the ISS with four astronauts on board.
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet announced this week that he will travel aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on his second mission to the ISS in the spring of 2021.