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Astronauts praise 'flawless' SpaceX capsule landing
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Aug 04, 2020

'Like an animal': NASA astronauts describe noisy, jolting descent
Houston (AFP) Aug 4, 2020 - SpaceX's crewed capsule isn't called Dragon for nothing.

The two NASA astronauts brought back to Earth on Sunday said they felt they were inside the belly of a beast as it careened into the atmosphere at 17,500 mph.

"It came alive," said mission commander Bob Behnkhen at a virtual press conference held Tuesday in Houston, Texas.

The thrusters were firing to keep the capsule, called "Endeavour," pointed precisely at its target site off the coast of Pensacola, for the first water landing by a US spaceship since 1975.

"The atmosphere starts to make noise, you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle and as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body," continued the 50-year-old.

"It doesn't sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all that all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise," he added.

Not only was ride down deafening, but each time the vessel carried out descent sequences like jettisoning its "trunk" that contained the power system and firing parachutes, it was also bone-jarring.

"Very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat, you know, just a crack," said Behnken, describing the sensation.

Behnken and crewmate Doug Hurley, 53, are best friends in real life and both are married to fellow astronauts.

They were addressing journalists, as tradition dictates, two days after their return from a six-month stay on the International Space Station.

The success of the demonstration mission for SpaceX Crew Dragon, the first crewed US spaceship to achieve orbit since the Space Shuttle era, means it will likely soon be certified for regular service.

The next mission is already planned for September.

"The mission went just like the simulators, from start to finish, all the way there was really no surprises," said Hurley.

Both men are veterans of the Space Shuttle program, which ended in 2011, and they had been training for five years with SpaceX.

Splash down at 15 miles per hour in the Gulf of Mexico felt "pretty firm," said Hurley, but that was expected.

One person who will particularly benefit from Behnken's knowledge: astronaut Megan McArthur, who is slated to make the same voyage in the spring of 2021 on the same spacecraft, and is Behnken's wife.

Two NASA astronauts who returned from space to a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday praised the SpaceX Dragon capsule's performance in their first public comments since the mission.

"We're so proud of the SpaceX and NASA teams to get Dragon through its first crewed flight flawlessly," Doug Hurley said.

"I'm almost kind of speechless, as far as how well the vehicle did and how, how well the mission went and all the things we did on board [the International Space Station]."

Hurley and Bob Benken spent 64 days in space after lifting off May 30 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their assessment of the trip is important because the flight was the last test of the Crew Dragon capsule before NASA considers certifying it for regular flights.

The space agency still must pore over data from the flight, which could take weeks. If all goes well, the first regular SpaceX mission will be scheduled for as early as late September.

On Tuesday, back in Houston, Hurley and Behnken described a dynamic, violent reentry into the atmosphere, but praised the spacecraft.

"Dragon really came alive," Behnken said. "It started to fire its thrusters and keep us pointed in the right direction. The thrusters were firing almost continuously. It doesn't sound like a machine. It sounds like an animal."

He said separation of the trunk -- a disposable storage chamber -- from the capsule and the firing of parachutes were "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat -- you know, just a crack!"

But Behnken said SpaceX had prepared them for those milestones, showing them video matched with audio of the uncrewed test flight of the Dragon in March 2019.

He said he would advise future crews on the Dragon to watch that video, including his wife, Megan McArthur, who is scheduled to ride in the same seat he did later this year.

The Crew Dragon mission is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, established in 2010, which works with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing to develop a transportation systems to the space station.

Boeing plans a second demonstration flight of its Starliner capsule this fall after the first one failed to achieve a high enough orbit to reach the space station.

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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SpaceX brings NASA astronauts home safe in milestone mission
Washington (AFP) Aug 3, 2020
America's first crewed spaceship to fly to the International Space Station in nearly a decade returned safely to Earth on Sunday, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico. The successful mission, carried out jointly by SpaceX and NASA, demonstrated that the United States has the capacity once more to send its astronauts to space and bring them back. The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed into the water off Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 pm (1848 GMT), trailed by its four main parachutes. It was t ... read more

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