NASA astronauts returning from space station in SpaceX capsule delayed by weather

NASA astronauts returning from space station in SpaceX capsule delayed by weather
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Four astronauts are scheduled to return home from the International Space Station this week, capping off a nearly six-month mission in space, but bad weather at the crew’s splashdown site is forcing a delay.

The astronauts, NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, as well as Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, were scheduled to depart the space station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Thursday morning. But NASA was forced to reject the departure due to unfavorable weather conditions on Earth.

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Friday at 11:35 a.m. ET for Crew Dragon’s departure, and splashdown off the coast of Florida could happen just a few hours later, at 4:50 p.m. ET, according to a statement. NASA press release.

Weather-enforcing delays in spacecraft launching or returning from the ISS are extremely common, especially when unpredictable storms batter splashdown sites off the Florida coast.

“Mission teams continue to monitor a cold front passing through Florida on Thursday, October 2. 13, bringing strong winds and rainy weather near the splashdown zones off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts,” according to NASA. “Current weather forecasts show increased certainty on Friday due to a high pressure system behind the cold front, which is expected to bring more favorable conditions for splashdown and recovery.”

Ground crews are expected to check the weather again overnight.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft that will bring the astronauts home normally has Seven possible landing zones – off the coast of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville.

It’s still unclear which splashdown site NASA and SpaceX are targeting for Friday.

This mission, called Crew-4, marked a historic first on the ISS, as Jessica Watkins became the first black woman to join the space station crew for an extended stay.

More than a dozen black Americans, including five black women, have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983. The ISS has hosted more than 250 astronauts since 2000, but no black woman has had the opportunity to live before. and work in space for an extended period so far.

Aerospace company SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon spacecraft under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Program.

The idea behind the program was to move NASA into a client role, allowing private companies to design, build and test a new spacecraft to serve NASA astronauts while also giving the company ownership of the vehicle. .

For nearly a decade after the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program in 2011, the United States had to rely on buying seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its astronauts to and from the ISS. SpaceX renewed orbital human spaceflight capabilities from US soil in 2020 with the launch of its Demo-2 mission, which carried two NASA astronauts to the space station.

Crew-4 is the fifth flight SpaceX has flown as part of its partnership with NASA, and the space agency has continued to buy additional flights from the company led by founder and CEO Elon Musk.

The return of the Crew-4 astronauts to Earth comes less than a week after the Crew-5 astronauts arrived in a separate SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The two mission teams have spent the last few days in a brief handover period to ensure a smooth transition between crews.

NASA officials have continued to expand the agency’s partnership with SpaceX, increasing the value of their overall deal to encompass 15 total manned missions worth more than $4.9 billion.

However, since SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon under a fixed-price commercial contract, it retains ownership of the vehicle. That means that the private company also has the ability to sell seats to whomever it wishes. SpaceX has already flown two Crew Dragon missions funded entirely by wealthy thrill seekers. And here they are Future private missions in process.

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