Four astronauts will bring the Redeye home to Earth on Saturday.
Later that evening, a crew of four – three NASA astronauts and one from Japan’s Space Agency – will take off from the International Space Station in a capsule built by SpaceX. The astronauts will orbit the planet several times over the next few hours until they splash along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida early Sunday morning.
NASA has not performed such a nocturnal splash since 1968 when Apollo 8, the first mission to send astronauts around the moon, returned to Earth.
When do the astronauts go and how can I watch?
The return of the astronauts to Earth has been repeatedly delayed due to the weather. Forecasts in the splashdown zone were not favorable, but NASA said “ideal conditions” were expected over the weekend.
The astronauts will get inside the capsule and the hatch will be sealed at 6:20 p.m. east time. You will then undock from the space station at 8:35 p.m. East Coast Time.
NASA will broadcast these operations live on NASA television starting at 6 p.m.
When will the astronauts splash on earth?
The approximate time to hos down is 2:57 a.m. Eastern Time on Sunday. The agency has scheduled a press conference with NASA, SpaceX, and other officials at 5 a.m. on Sunday.
What happens when the astronauts return home?
It will be a long journey. The astronauts will board the Crew Dragon and the hatch will close at 6:20 p.m., but then more than two hours will pass before the capsule leaves while the astronauts check that neither the capsule named Resilience nor the capsule has air exit space station. Resilience is to autonomously undock at 8:35 p.m. and then perform a series of engine shots to move away from the space station.
It will then orbit the plant until Florida is aligned in the correct position for it to splash in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just before 2am, while preparing to return to Earth, the Crew Dragon will dump what SpaceX calls the spacecraft’s “trunk” – the cylindrical compartment beneath the gumpdrop-shaped capsule. The trunk will burn up in the atmosphere.
Five minutes after the fuselage has been removed, the capsule fires its engines to fall out of orbit.
As soon as the earth’s atmosphere is low enough, parachutes are deployed to gently lower the capsule into the sea.
What is the risk of space debris for the astronauts?
Typically, the risk of space debris hitting a spaceship going to or from the space station is low. It’s a pretty short journey in general – about a day – and a starship like Crew Dragon is pretty small, so it’s not a big destination for a wayward piece of debris.
But when another group of astronauts, Crew-2, took off in a different Crew Dragon last week, they were a bit scared when mission control at SpaceX’s California headquarters told them that a piece of debris was approaching. They put their spacesuits back on and sat back in their seats in the event that the spaceship was hit, which could depressurize the capsule.
Mission control then provided a reassuring update: Further analyzes showed that the approach of the space debris was not that close after all. Even so, as a precaution, the astronauts waited until they were told that the space debris had passed.
The next day, a NASA spokesman said the debris passed 28 miles away – not very close at all.
Then the United States Space Command, which is tracking orbiting debris, made a more confusing update: the piece of debris that the Crew Dragon supposedly passed did not exist at all. A Space Command spokeswoman said a review was ongoing to determine what caused the false warning.
There are four astronauts in Crew-1:
Victor GloverThe 45-year-old, who was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2013, is in his first space flight. He is also the first black NASA astronaut to serve on a space station crew.
Michael S. Hopkins, 52, a United States Space Force Colonel, is the commander for the flight. (Colonel Hopkins is also the first member of the newly created US Space Force to go into space.) He was one of nine astronauts selected by NASA in 2009. Spend 166 days in orbit.
Soichi NoguchiThe 56-year-old astronaut at JAXA, the Japanese space agency, is completing his third voyage into space. He was a member of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery in 2005 on the first shuttle launch after the loss of Columbia and its seven astronauts more than two years ago.
During this visit to the International Space Station, Mr. Noguchi made three space walks. This included tests that tested techniques that could repair damage to the shuttle’s thermal tiles, similar to what Columbia did when it reentered Earth’s atmosphere. In 2009/10 he spent five months in orbit as a member of the space station crew.
Shannon WalkerThe 55-year-old was already working on the space station in 2010. Dr. Walker received her PhD in space physics from Rice University, where she studied how the solar wind interacts with the atmosphere of Venus.