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SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts describe thrilling return to Earth – CBS News

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Plunging back to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Sunday amounted to a high-speed thrill ride, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken reported Tuesday. The fiery, flawlessly-controlled descent to splashdown went off without a hitch — a major step toward certifying the vehicle for operational flights.

“What a ride!” Behnken tweeted, sharing long-range tracking camera footage of the Crew Dragon’s dramatic descent.

The Crew Dragon splashed down south of Pensacola, Florida, amid dozens of boaters, some motoring close to the gently rocking capsule despite earlier Coast Guard warnings to stay clear. The spacecraft, with Hurley and Behnken still strapped in their seats, was hauled aboard a SpaceX recovery ship without incident.

It was the first water landing for astronauts or cosmonauts returning from orbit since the final Apollo capsule closed out a joint flight with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft 45 years ago.

Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two space shuttle flights each, said the ride down was possibly more exciting than either expected. Behnken provided a blow-by-blow description Tuesday during a virtual news conference at the Johnson Space Center.

Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley answer phoned-in questions from reporters during a news conference two days after their historic return to Earth aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

NASA


“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise. You can hear that rumble outside the vehicle,” he said.

“And as the vehicle tries to control (its orientation), you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body, and our bodies were much better attuned to the environment (after two month in weightlessness) so we could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws,” he added.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously … But it doesn’t sound like a machine,” Behnken explained. “It sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise. It just continues to gain magnitude.”

When the capsule’s stabilizing drogue parachutes deployed, followed by four large main chutes inflating, it felt “very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat,” Behnken said. “It was a pretty significant jolt.”

“If you’ve seen an old movie that happened to have some guys who’d been in a centrifuge, that’s what we felt like,” he said. “When the time came to splash down … we felt the splash and we saw it splash up over the windows. It was just a great relief.”

They did not say whether they felt any nausea before the gently bobbing spacecraft was recovered and pulled onto the recovery ship Go Navigator, something they mentioned before launch as a possibility.

Behnken and Hurley had nothing but praise for SpaceX and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, thanking SpaceX for the extensive training they received and for audio recordings and video from an unpiloted Crew Dragon test flight last year that let them know what to expect during the trip back to Earth.

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The Crew Dragon descending under parachutes Sunday, moments before splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola, Florida.

NASA/Bill Ingalls


“When it performed as expected, and we could check off those events, we were really, really comfortable coming through the atmosphere, even though, you know, it felt like we were inside of an animal,” Behnken said.

Hurley and Behnken were launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30. The spacecraft carried out an automated rendezvous to catch up with the International Space Station and, after the astronauts tested its manual control system, docked with the lab complex using the same forward port that once accommodated visiting space shuttles.

The Crew Dragon astronauts were welcomed aboard by Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

Over the next two months, Hurley and Behnken assisted Cassidy with a full slate of U.S. and partner agency research, logging 114 hours carrying out experiments that would not otherwise have gotten done with a single U.S. astronaut aboard.

Behnken also participated in four spacewalks with Cassidy to wrap up installation of replacement batteries in the station’s solar power system. Including six excursions during two previous shuttle missions, Behnken now ranks fourth on the list of most experienced spacewalkers, with 61 hours and 10 minutes spent outside the station.

Hurley, who piloted two shuttle missions, including the winged orbiter’s final flight to the space station in 2011, said he expected some surprises during the Crew Dragon’s reentry.

“I expected there to be some divergence and attitude control, because it’s a real tough problem for the ship as it gets into the thicker air to maintain perfect attitude and control,” he said. “And … the vehicle was rock solid.”

The Crew Dragon is the first American spacecraft to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil since the space shuttle’s final flight in 2011. For the past nine years, NASA has relied on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. and partner agency astronauts to and from the station, paying more than $80 million per seat under recent contracts.

The Crew Dragon and, eventually, Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 capsules are intended to end that sole reliance on Russia while opening up low-Earth orbit to private-sector development.

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Robert Behnken, left, and spacecraft commander Douglas Hurley, greet recovery crews moments after the hatch of their Crew Dragon capsule was opened.

NASA/Bill Ingalls


SpaceX launched and recovered an unpiloted Crew Dragon capsule last year and carried out a dramatic in-flight abort, again unpiloted, earlier this year. That cleared the way for Hurley and Behnken to blast off on the program’s first piloted mission, a test flight known as Demo 2.

The spacecraft performed in near-flawless fashion throughout its first piloted mission and, if a detailed post-flight review confirms that, NASA managers hope to certify the spacecraft for operational crew rotation missions to and from the space station starting this fall.

“They do need to look at the data from our entry,” Behnken said. “They will do a very thorough review, both on the SpaceX side and the NASA side, to make sure that they’re comfortable. But from a crew perspective, I think that it’s definitely ready to go.”

That will be good news for Behnken’s wife, astronaut Megan McArthur. She’s one of four astronauts scheduled to blast off next year aboard the same Crew Dragon capsule that carried Behnken and Hurley back to Earth.

“My wife is assigned to a SpaceX mission, and we have a young son,” Behnken said. “So I’ll definitely be focused on making sure that her mission’s as successful as possible and supporting her just as she did for me over the last five years.”


SpaceX splashdown marks a milestone

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Bus-size asteroid to zoom by Earth, ducking below satellites – CTV News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
An asteroid the size of a school bus is headed our way, but NASA says the space rock will zoom safely past Earth on Thursday.

The newly discovered asteroid will come within 13,000 miles (22,000 kilometres) of Earth, well below many of the communications satellites orbiting the planet, scientists said this week. The closest approach will occur Thursday morning over the southeastern Pacific Ocean.

Once it’s gone, the asteroid won’t be back to Earth’s neighbourhood until 2041.

Scientists estimate the asteroid is between 15 feet and 30 feet (4.5 metres to 9 metres). By asteroid standards, that’s considered puny. Asteroids of this size hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up once every year or two, said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There could be as many as 100 million of these little asteroids out there.

The real threat are considerably bigger asteroids. The good news is that these are easier to spot much sooner than just a few days out.

Asteroid 2020 SW, as it is known, was discovered last Friday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Launch date for Tom Cruise's space mission confirmed – Belleville Intelligencer

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Tom Cruise attends the ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ Press Conference at The Ancestral Temple on August 29, 2018 in Beijing, .

Emmanuel Wong / (Credit too long, see caption)

Tom Cruise has been given a launch date for his mission to space.

The action man will become the first star to actually film in space while he’s onboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon trip to the International Space Station – and now he has a countdown to prepare for.

He’ll take off with astronauts and fellow wannabe spacemen and women in October 2021, according to the 2020-2023 ISS official manifest, obtained by TMZ.

The Mission: Impossible star will be joined in space by his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman.

Tom will also be working with SpaceX boss Elon Musk and NASA experts on the ambitious movie, the title of which has not yet been announced.

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ISS forced to move to avoid collision with space junk – Sky News

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Astronauts aboard the International Space Station had to carry out an “avoidance manoeuvre” to prevent it from being hit by space junk, NASA has said.

Its trajectory was changed to move it further away from the “unknown piece of space debris”, the US space agency wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

The three crew members – two Russians and an American – relocated to their Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS during the operation, so they could evacuate if necessary.






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Experts expected the space junk to pass within “several kilometres” of the ISS, but decided to move it “out of an abundance of caution”.

Russian and US flight controllers worked together to adjust the station’s orbit in an operation which took minutes.

The crew were able to continue with their regular activities after the manoeuvre was complete.

NASA said the crew were not in danger at any time.

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“Maneuver Burn complete. The astronauts are coming out of safe haven,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter.



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It is the third time this year the International Space Station (ISS) has had to manoeuvre to avoid space debris, he said.

He tweeted: “In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse!”

Astronomer Jonathon McDowell, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted the unknown object was a part of a 2018 Japanese rocket which broke into 77 pieces last year.

The ISS is orbiting around 260 miles (420km) above the Earth, travelling at a speed of about 17,130mph (27,568km/h).

At this velocity, even a small object has the ability to cause serious damage to the space station.

NASA has said these kinds of manoeuvres occur on a regular basis, with 25 having occurred between 1999 and 2018.

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