After a botched first attempt, it appears that the second time is an allure for the SpaceX-NASA joint human space mission. The Crew Dragon was launched atop the Falcon 9 rocket and this is a test flight named Demonstration 2 or Demo 2. After a nine-year drought, since Space Shuttle program was locked down in 2011, NASA has ultimately launched its own astronauts from American soil with the assistance of its public-private conglomeration with SpaceX.
The NASA-SpaceX joint human spaceflight was programmed for takeoff on Thursday, 28 May, 2.00 am IST (Wednesday, 27 May at 4.32 pm EDT) from the Launch Complex 39A from the Kenndy Space Centre, Florida which was also the liftoff site for the preceding Apollo and Space Shuttle missions and was chartered by SpaceX. Because of bad weather, the launch had to be postponed on Sunday, 31 May, 12.52 am IST (May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT). Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are on their way to the International Space Station and will dock mechanically around 7.00 pm IST, 19 hours after the lift-off. Hurley, 53 and Behnken, 49 have all-encompassing experience in space and have been involved in NASA’s Space Shuttle flights. There were lots of doubts if the liftoff was going to ensueon 31st May 2020 as the weather seems pretty similar to Thursday – cloudy with some rain and probabilities of lightning. However, 45 minutes before the launch, the mission director gave the team the all-clear for the liftoff and 10 minutes later the propellant was being laden into the two-stage rocket.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence were also present for the takeoff like they were for the wet rehearsal too. Space.com reports that Trump told journalists ‘that he felt a responsibility as president to watch the notable launch.’ Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX was shockingly missing. Thursday, Musk was seen speaking to the astronauts after they suited up in the crew lodgings, he was also seen standing with Pence and Bridenstine at the behind exit when the astronauts were leave-taking the building. He even has a few interviews with NASA chief Jim Bridenstine. However, this time around Musk had been substituted with former astronaut and present Director of Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, and Jim Morhard, Deputy Administrator at NASA.
Around 2.5 minutes after liftoff, the first stage booster will disengage from the rocket and return to Earth. It will land on SpaceX’s drone ship called “Of Course I Still Love You” that is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida. After that, the second stage will also separate from the Crew Dragon capsule. The Dragon will then orbit the Earth and undertake a series of what is identified as ‘phasing burns’ i.e. re-ignite its engines to propel it to the subsequent level so as to play catch-up with the ISS, that is roving at a speed of 7.66 km/s. Dragon is thought to automatically moor with the ISS after 19 hours of raising its elevation to match that of the ISS. The astronauts will have a kind of a welcoming ceremony waiting for them.
Hurley and Behnken will stay on the ISS for somewhere between one to four months doing science experiments and assisting in the maintenance of the station. Once NASA considers it is a good time to return, the astronauts will then start their journey back home. They will strap in and undock from the ISS. Before it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, the Crew Dragon will lose its shaft. This, like the second phase, will not be returning to Earth.The re-entry of the dragon will look a bit scary, like a sphere of fire but the heat-shields will make sure no harm comes to the astronauts. Four Mark 3 Parachutes will be organized that will reduce speed of the entry of the vehicle, and Dragon will splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The astronauts will be trawled out of the water accompanied by the Dragon capsule, which will be examined at the Cape Canaveral facility in Florida.