SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts are preparing to return from the International Space Station (ISS) after 196 days of working in microgravity. It is the second operational mission under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that aims to conduct frequent rotational space flights from American soil. SpaceX is also set to launch the next crewed flight, Crew-3, to the orbiting laboratory this month.
NASA is assessing when to return Crew-2 and launch Crew-3 due to unstable weather conditions in Cape Canaveral. NASA representatives say there is a possible opportunity for Crew-2 to undock Crew Dragon Endeavour from the ISS Harmony module at 1:05 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 7, to initiate their return voyage to Earth. The Crew-2 astronauts plan to fly Crew Dragon Endeavour around the Space Station to take photos before returning. “If operations permit, Endeavour will conduct an approximately 2-hour automated flight around the station after undocking, allowing Crew-2 astronauts to capture high resolution imagery of it,” the agency shared in a press release. Updated photos will enable NASA engineers to see the Station's exterior conditions as a whole, and also enable SpaceX Dragon to use its autonomous feature to circle ISS for the first time. UPDATE: Crew-2 will undock at 12:04 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 7.
If NASA gives the crew a green-light to undock on Sunday, Crew-2 would cross Earth’s atmosphere by Monday, November 8 to splashdown along Florida’s Coast. The agency also scheduled a back-up undocking opportunity for November 8. However, if unfavorable weather off the coast of Florida delays Crew-2’s return, NASA could launch Crew-3 on Monday, November 8 at 9:15 p.m. EST. SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts discussed their 6-month mission during a live press conference this afternoon, video linked below.
This week, Crew-2 NASA astronauts Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, did final preparations before returning to Earth. They packed items aboard Crew Dragon Endeavour and also performed check-ups of all their hardware to ensure a safe return. “We tried on our SpaceX spacesuits for the trip home (soon!)... they are not easy to put on in weightlessness so some hilarity ensued. We managed, and they fit, we are ready to come back to 🌎 [Earth] #MissionAlpha,” Pesquet shared via Twitter with a set of photographs.
Crew-2 has been living and working at ISS since their launch on April 23, 2021. As part of their mission, they performed hundreds of science experiments, including studying how the most resilient creature on Earth, Tardigrades , react to outer space environment and the crew even grew some chile peppers. NASA Astronaut McArthur got to taste the chile peppers in outer space, she made some delicious-looking tacos floating in zero gravity. "Friday Feasting! After the harvest, we got to taste red and green chile," she Tweeted, "Then we filled out surveys (got to have the data! 😁). Finally, I made my best space tacos yet: fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes & artichokes, and HATCH CHILE!"
Crew-2 also conducted spacewalks to upgrade the Space Station's solar arrays, also tested new technologies in augmented reality and robotics. Every experiment conducted at the orbiting laboratory helps researchers on Earth develop new technologies and medical treatments for a wide-range of things.
Friday Feasting! After the harvest, we got to taste red and green chile. Then we filled out surveys (got to have the data! 😁). Finally, I made my best space tacos yet: fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes & artichokes, and HATCH CHILE! https://t.co/pzvS5A6z5u pic.twitter.com/fJ8yLZuhZS— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) October 29, 2021
VIDEO: NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 Science Research
Featured Image Source: NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough photographs SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour from the International Space Station above the Persian Gulf. October 21, 2021.