Commander Chris Cassidy ran several test operations today of the Water Droplet Formation experiment that may improve fluid management on spaceships and faucets and showers on Earth. The veteran astronaut also analyzed water samples for microbes and checked on biology and robotics hardware.
Cassidy then switched roles from space scientist to high-flying plumber and serviced the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, located in the Tranquility module. He also exchanged water recovery system pumps inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.
Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos spent Wednesday morning working on power and electrical systems in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. The experienced cosmonaut then moved onto fluid transfers into the Progress 76 resupply ship then studied ways improve to interactions between mission controllers and space crews.
Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner from Roscosmos started the morning communicating with students on Earth using a ham radio. The first-time space flyer then worked the rest of the day on a variety of maintenance tasks including replacing pumps and checking smoke detectors.
Free-flying robots, planetary bodies and water droplets were just part of Tuesday’s research plan aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 63 trio also serviced a variety of communications gear and life support systems.
NASA and its international partners are planning human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond and the space station represents a big step in that effort. The orbiting lab provides a unique platform to learn about the long-term effects of microgravity on a variety of systems.
A set of cube-shaped, robot assistants are flying around on their own today inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Engineers are looking at video and imagery downlinked from the Astrobee devices to understand how the autonomous free-flyers visualize and navigate their way around the station.
The veteran NASA astronaut also split his time between botany and fluid physics. Cassidy worked on the Plant Habitat-02 checking growth lights and installing an acoustic shield to protect the plants from station noises. Next, he moved onto commercial research to improve water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth.
In the Russian segment of the station, the two cosmonaut flight engineers worked on their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Anatoly Ivanishin serviced video equipment and an air purifier before conducting Earth observations. Ivan Vagner collected air samples for microbial analysis and explored ways to improve interactions between mission controllers, students and space crews.
SpaceX has completed its demonstration mission phase and has already booked two operational Crew Dragon missions. Crew-1 is planned for later this year and Crew-2 is targeted for Spring 2021. Both commercial crew missions will launch four astronauts each to the space station to continue microgravity science.
Russia will launch three Expedition 64 crew members to the station one week before the Expedition 63 crew returns to Earth in October. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will liftoff inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship to begin a six-month mission aboard the orbital lab.
Splashdown of Two Astronauts Aboard the Space Crew Dragon
Two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, splashed down safely in the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at 2:48 p.m. EDT. It is the first time a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft has returned from the International Space Station to complete a test flight, beginning a new era in human spaceflight.
Teams on the Go Navigator recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing Crew Dragon and ensuring the spacecraft is safed for the recovery effort. As the fast boat teams complete their work, the recovery ship will move into position to hoist Crew Dragon onto the main deck of Go Navigator with Behnken and Hurley inside. Once on the main deck, the crew will be taken out of the spacecraft and receive medical checks before a helicopter ride to Pensacola to board a plane for Houston.
The duo arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 62 days aboard station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.
These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data about the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.
The test flight also will help NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission that will occur following NASA certification, which is expected to take about six weeks.
The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Watch NASA’s live coverage as NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft are making their final orbit of Earth before splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Weather conditions remain within the splashdown weather criteria and are “Go” at the primary targeted site off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
Here are the upcoming milestones (all times Eastern):
1:51 p.m. – Crew Dragon performs claw separation. The claw is located on Crew Dragon’s trunk, connecting thermal control, power, and avionics system components located on the trunk to the capsule.
1:51 p.m. – Trunk separation
1:56 p.m. – Deorbit burn begins
2:08 p.m. – Deorbit burn complete
2:11 p.m. – Nosecone deploys
2:32 p.m. – Crew Dragon maneuvers to attitude for re-entry
2:44 p.m. – Drogue parachutes deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour.
2:45 p.m. – Main parachutes deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 119 miles per hour.