CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Thanks to Mother Nature, NASA is weighing when to convey the 4 astronauts of its Crew-2 mission with SpaceX house, whilst their replacements wait on Earth for a launch of their very own.
The Crew-2 astronauts, NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoside of Japan and Thomas Pesquet of France, first launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in April on a six-month mission. According to company officers, the crew might come house aboard their SpaceX Dragon capsule as early as Sunday (Nov. 7), if climate permits.
“We don’t know exactly when we’re going to come back home,” Pesquet, who represents the European Space Agency, advised reporters on Friday (Nov. 5). “But we can say for sure that sooner rather for rather than later.”
Live updates: SpaceX’s Crew-2 and Crew-3 astronaut missions
The uncertainty is because of the truth that NASA has but to get Crew-2’s replacements off the bottom. That group of Crew-3 astronauts — NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, together with European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer — have been set to blast off on Oct. 31, however the launch has been delayed due to poor weather situations alongside the rocket’s flight path and a minor medical issue that popped up with one of many crewmembers.
Weather situations right here on the Cape are dismal, which means that the company is realistically taking a look at mid-week subsequent week earlier than they will get Chari, Marshburn, Barron, and Maurer off the bottom.
This implies that NASA goes to should convey again the Crew-2 astronauts and do a digital handoff of the reigns to the ISS. Kimbrough says that it is not likely a giant deal, however ideally, the Crew-2 astronauts would give the subsequent crew some housekeeping suggestions and tips.
“A lot of that handover time is just showing little things on living in space — the things we don’t get trained on, like eating and going to the bathroom and sleeping and those kinds of little tidbits that we would pass on to the next crew if they were here,” he advised reporters. “And if we’re not here, then Mark Vande Hei is certainly capable to do that and get that next crew up to speed.” (Vande Hei, one other NASA astronaut on the station, is presently in the course of a nearly yearlong trip to the station.)
Toilet troubles in space
The crew has been busy making ready for his or her journey house, inspecting each their Dragon capsule and the spacesuits that may defend them on the way in which again to Earth.
During that inspection course of, the crew found evidence of a leaky toilet that was first observed on a distinct SpaceX capsule used on its non-public Inspiration4 mission, which launched in September. (As a part of that mission, 4 civilians launched on a three-day journey across the Earth as a way to elevate cash for St. Jude Children Research Hospital.)
SpaceX has since redesigned its toilet in order that crews can use it with out worry of leaks. However, that doesn’t embrace Crew-2’s Dragon Endeavor, which is presently docked to the ISS. To that finish, NASA and SpaceX have requested the crew to not use the bathroom but instead to rely on diapers if they should relieve themselves through the journey house.
“Yes, we are unable to use the toilet on Dragon for the return trip, and of course, that’s suboptimal,” McArthur advised reporters when requested about the bathroom dilemma. “But, you know, spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges and this is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission.”
“So we’re not too worried about it. I think we have a good plan going forward.”
Kimbrough mentioned that the crew had the chance to examine Dragon Endeavor a couple of occasions, and even to look beneath the floorboard to see if the identical leak occurred of their Dragon because it did in Dragon Resilience, which launched the Inspiration4 mission.
“We got to get under the panels in the floor, so to speak a few times with different kinds of video cameras, to give the SpaceX and NASA teams some data to see if it was anything like the Inspiration4 vehicle or not,” he mentioned. “Then they came up with the plan after seeing some of the videos [we recorded].
“They’ve accomplished a bunch of testing within the final month, you already know, 4 to 6 weeks or so, to clear the automobile,” he added. “So we’re very joyful about that.”
Tasty taco treats
One of the big projects the crew was working on while in space was a plant growth experiment that looked at how Hatch chile peppers grow in microgravity. Last week, the crew was able to harvest their first crop and enjoy some tasty tacos with a little extra spice thanks to the freshly grown peppers.
“It’s been a very nice, ongoing experiment for us,” McArthur said. We can come and check on the plants, and occasionally, when someone would get inside the habitat, we could come and smell the plants and see the chiles growing.”
“So, it’s really been a nice morale boost as well as an interesting science project,’ she said, adding that they were able to sample both green and red chile.
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/fJ8yLZuhZSOctober 29, 2021
Despite the fact that there was no Halloween launch this year, the Crew-2 astronauts still had their own version of trick-or-treating on station, with a few treats provided by the folks on the ground. According to Kimbrough, Darth Vader even visited them, which was a surprise.
Earlier in the month, after arriving at Kennedy Space Center, Crew-3’s Kayla Barron said that fellow NASA astronaut, Mark Vande Hei, had some costumes for them to wear on station, but that plan was sidetracked a bit as the launch was postponed.
A mission to recollect
Pesquet, Kimbrough, McArthur, and Hoshide all agree that their time on station was memorable and challenging and that they’re trying to soak up every minute they have left on the space station.
“As we’re making ready to depart it is type of a bittersweet feeling as a result of we would by no means come again to see the ISS,” he said. “And it truly is a magical place.”
Pesquet said that seeing the Earth from space, and doing important research that benefits everyone here on Earth is a dream come true. “To me, that is what desires are manufactured from,” he said. “And I’m very grateful that folks dreamt the ISS a while in the past after which went forward and labored onerous to make it occur and to construct it for the advantage of everybody.”
The Crew-2 astronauts, who were part of Expeditions 65 and now Expedition 66, were really able to get through a ton of science experiments while in space. This achievement is one of the main goals of the Commercial Crew program: to provide an extra crewmember so that more time is devoted to research.
Pesquet, the first French commander of the station, says he has one wish — to keep the ISS in top shape and flying for years to come. He said that he and his crewmates were happy to have played a small role in its upkeep, and Pesquet and Kimbrough worked together to install a new set of solar arrays that will help keep ISS powered for years to come.
Although an official return date has yet to be announced, NASA says the earliest the crew can come home is Sunday, Nov. 7. Where they splash down will be determined after they undock from the space station and have a better idea of weather conditions.