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NASA-SpaceX crew begins return voyage from International Space Station – Nippon.com

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NASA-SpaceX crew splashes down after return from International Space Station | Nippon.com

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Nov 9, 2021

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) -Four astronauts strapped inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast on Monday, capping a six-month NASA science mission aboard the International Space Station and a daylong flight home.

The Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endeavour, parachuted into the sea as planned just after 10:30 p.m. EST on Monday (0330 GMT Tuesday), following a fiery re-entry descent through Earth’s atmosphere carried live by a NASA webcast.

Live thermal video imaging captured a glimpse of the capsule streaking like a meteor through the night sky over the Gulf minutes before splashdown.

Applause was heard from the flight control center as the four main parachutes inflated above the capsule as it drifted down toward the Gulf surface, slowing its speed to about 15 miles per hour (24 kph) before dropping gently into the calm sea.

“Endeavour, on behalf of SpaceX, welcome home to planet Earth,” a voice from the SpaceX flight control center in suburban Los Angeles was heard telling the crew as a safe splashdown was confirmed.

“It’s great to be back,” one of the astronauts radioed in reply.

Operating autonomously, the spacecraft began its eight-hour return voyage earlier in the day with a 90-minute fly-around of the space station as the crew snapped a series of survey photographs of the orbiting outpost, circling the globe some 250 miles (400 km) high.

The Crew Dragon then proceeded through a series of maneuvers over the course of the day to bring it closer to Earth and line up the capsule for its final nighttime descent.

INTENSE RE-ENTRY HEAT

Propelled by one last ignition of its forward rocket thrusters for a “de-orbit burn,” the capsule re-entered the atmosphere at about 17,000 miles per hour (27,359 kph) for a free-fall toward the ocean below, during which crew communications were lost for several minutes.

Intense friction generated as the capsule plunges through the atmosphere sends temperatures surrounding the outside of the vehicle soaring to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,927 degrees Celsius). The re-entry friction also slows the capsule’s descent before parachutes are deployed.

The astronauts’ flight suits are designed to keep them cool if the cabin warms up, while a heat shield protects the capsule from incinerating on re-entry.

Recovery vessels were shown headed toward the water-proof Crew Dragon as it bobbed upright in the water. The astronauts and their capsule were expected to be hoisted out of the sea within about an hour, NASA said.

The crew, which spent 199 days in space during this mission, was made up of two NASA astronauts – mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 54, and pilot Megan McArthur, 50 – along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and fellow mission specialist Thomas Pesquet, 43, a French engineer from the European Space Agency.

They were lofted to orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off on April 23 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It was the third crew launched into orbit under NASA’s fledgling public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company formed in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also founded electric car maker Tesla Inc.

The returning team was designated “Crew 2” because it marks the second “operational” space station team that NASA has launched aboard a SpaceX capsule since resuming human spaceflights from American soil last year, after a nine-year hiatus at the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011.

The replacement team, “Crew 3,” was originally slated to fly to the space station at the end of October, but that launch has been delayed by weather problems and an unspecified medical issue involving one of the four crew members.

One irregularity confronting the returning Crew 2 was a plumbing leak aboard the capsule that put the spacecraft’s toilet out of order, requiring the astronauts to relieve themselves in their spacesuit undergarments if nature called during the flight home, according to NASA.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang, Peter Cooney and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)


SpaceX Crew-2 streaks across the sky as it makes its return to Earth, in New Orleans, Louisianna, U.S., November 8, 2021, in this still image taken from a social media video. @_tehgreat/via REUTERS

SpaceX Crew-2 streaks across the sky as it makes its return to Earth, in New Orleans, Louisianna, U.S., November 8, 2021, in this still image taken from a social media video. @_tehgreat/via REUTERS
SpaceX Crew-2 streaks across the sky as it makes its return to Earth, in New Orleans, Louisianna, U.S., November 8, 2021, in this still image taken from a social media video. @_tehgreat/via REUTERS

SpaceX Crew-2 streaks across the sky as it makes its return to Earth, in New Orleans, Louisianna, U.S., November 8, 2021, in this still image taken from a social media video. @_tehgreat/via REUTERS
SpaceX Crew-2 streaks across the sky as it makes its return to Earth, in New Orleans, Louisianna, U.S., November 8, 2021, in this still image taken from a social media video. @_tehgreat/via REUTERS

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Russia may sue NASA astronaut over claims of drilling hole in spacecraft – WION

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US-Russia spat seems to have reached space now. In a new development, Russian space agency Roscosmos has threatened to sue a NASA astronaut.   

The agency claims the astronaut drilled a two-mm hole in a Soyuz MS-09 vehicle, which was docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018.  

After completing its investigation recently, the agency deemed the action as a sabotage. It cited Serena Auñón-Chancellor, an ISS crew member during the incident, as the culprit.  

Also Read: Watch | NASA mission to test out Armageddon scenario blasts off

As the allegations were handed over to law enforcement of the Russia, Roscosmos announced the possibility of criminal charges.   

With the hope of returning home early, Auñón-Chancellor purposefully made the hole, reported the Izvestia newspaper while citing sources on Friday.  

Auñón-Chancellor seems to have wanted to leave due to a blood clot or a fight with her boyfriend onboard the ISS, Russian news outlet said citing sources.  

Also Read: NASA postpones ISS spacewalk because of space debris

When Auñón-Chancellor was in space, she got married to Jeff Chancellor. The couple is still married to this day. It is unclear who is the ‘boyfriend’ as stated by sources.  

After a pressure drop was identified due to an air leak, the hole was spotted on August 30, 2018.  

(With inputs from agencies) 

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NASA aims to replace ISS with a commercial space station by 2030 – The Tribune

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Washington, Dec 1

The US space agency is planning to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with one or more commercial space stations by 2030.

NASA’s auditing body, the Office of Audits, has produced a report detailing the agency’s commitment to replace the orbiting lab with commercial space stations.

Astronauts have lived and worked onboard the ISS orbiting roughly 250 miles above the Earth’s surface for more than 20 years.

“The ISS costs about $3 billion a year, roughly a third of NASA’s annual human space flight budget, and while current plans call for the Station’s retirement in 2024, an extension to 2030 is likely,” the US space agency said in the audit report.

Anticipating its retirement, NASA has committed to replacing the ISS with one or more commercially owned and operated space destinations.

“In the fiscal year (FY) that ended September 30, 2021, Congress authorised $17 million to that end — a fraction of the $150 million the Agency said it needed. NASA’s plans for long-term, deep space human exploration missions depend on continuous access to a research laboratory in low-Earth orbit,” it added.

The Artemis mission, aimed at returning humans to the Moon and ultimately landing astronauts on Mars, is not feasible without continued human health research and technology demonstrations being conducted on the ISS and its eventual replacement.

“As long as humans intend to travel in space, NASA expects research and testing will be needed in the microgravity environment of low-Earth orbit,” the audio report mentioned.

While overall ISS operations and maintenance costs remained steady at about $1.1 billion a year from FY2016 through FY2020, systems maintenance and upgrade costs trended upward 35 per cent in the same 5-year period, rising to approximately $169 million in FY2020 due primarily to upgrades.

Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause and long-term impacts of cracks and leaks that were recently discovered in the Station’s Service Module Transfer Tunnel, which connects the Service Module to one of eight docking ports on the Station.

“Causes being explored include structural fatigue, internal damage, external damage, and material defects. Notably, based on the models NASA used to assess the structure, the cracks should not have occurred, suggesting the possibility of an earlier-than-projected obsolescence for at least one element of the Station,” the US space agency noted. IANS

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Arctic rainfall could dominate snowfall earlier than expected: study – Global Times

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A view of Arctic Photo: VCG

Rainfall could start replacing snowfall in the Arctic decades sooner than previously thought, a study found Tuesday, warning the change caused by global warming could have effects beyond the region.

The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet, melting sea ice and adding moisture to the air that is likely to increase precipitation.

Comparing the latest projections to previous climate models, the study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications estimates the switch from snowfall-dominated annual precipitation to one dominated by rain will come about “one or two decades earlier.”

“Changes are going to be more severe and occur much earlier than projected and so will have huge implications for life in and beyond the Arctic,” the study’s main author Michelle McCrystall told AFP.

“In autumn, for example, when the greatest changes occur, the central Arctic may transition around 2070 in the latest set of models compared to 2090 in the previous set,” added McCrystall, a researcher at Canada’s University of Manitoba.

But everything depends on the degree of global warming.

At the current rate of warming rain could dominate snow in the Arctic before the end of the century, the study says. But it says limiting warming to 1.5 C could mean the Arctic stays dominated by snow.

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the results “imply that the worst impacts can be avoided if countries match their stated intentions to cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement.”

But Schmidt added that he felt the study did not prove the change would come sooner than expected.

Whenever it comes, the switch from snow to rain is likely to have major effects on the Arctic ecosystem. 

More rainfall on top of current snow cover could lead to increased surface ice that would make it impossible for caribou and reindeer to forage for food.

Less snow cover also means the Arctic will lose some of its capacity to deflect solar heat and light away from the Earth’s surface and thus contribute to warming.

AFP

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