SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts’ return to Earth delayed again due to weather

NASA and SpaceX have again delayed the return to Earth for four astronauts on the Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station due to bad weather.

SpaceX’s Crew-1 Dragon capsule and its crew of four were scheduled to undock from the station today (April 30) and splashdown just before midday on Saturday (May 1). Their departure had already been delayed from Wednesday (April 28) due to weather. NASA and SpaceX mission teams have not yet agreed on a new return date.

“Mission teams from NASA and SpaceX will meet again on Friday to further review opportunities for the safe return of Crew-1,” NASA officials wrote in a statement. “Crew Dragon is in great health on the space station, and teams will continue to look for the optimal conditions for both splashdown and recovery.” 

In photos: SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station

SpaceX’s Crew-1 Crew Dragon spacecraft, called Resilience, will splashdown in one of seven different target sites in either the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coast or the Gulf of Mexico. Its astronaut crew is wrapping up a six-month mission in space.

There are 11 astronauts are currently on the space station, the highest number since the space shuttle era when up to 13 astronauts had to cohabit inside the orbital outpost, about the size of a five-bedroom home, during crew handovers. 

The Crew-1 astronauts — NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi — are waiting at the space station for their return home. With them are three members of  the Soyuz MS-18 mission, American Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, and the recently arrived Crew-2 consisting of Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and the European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

After the departure of Crew-1, Hoshide will lead the Expedition 65. He and the rest of the Crew-2 team will stay in space until October 2021. 

The crew members keep themselves busy inside the overcrowded space station with scientific experiments, lab maintenance and emergency gear training, NASA said in the statement. On Thursday, the crew collected urine samples and conducted experiments to study how space affects grip and movement. They also swapped fuel bottles supporting combustion experiments and installed new hardware to activate a high-performance space computer study.

NASA said some of the astronauts have had to find alternative sleeping arrangements as the space station currently only has seven proper crew quarters, or personal spaces for astronauts to sleep: four inside the U.S. Harmony Module, one in the European Columbus module, and two in the Russian module Zvezda. 

Temporary “campout” locations for crew to sleep during handover periods can be located in the U.S. Quest airlock, the Japanese Kibo module, or in the docked spacecraft. Hopkins has slept inside the Crew-1 Dragon Resilience during his entire six-month stay aboard the station.

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