The astronauts on SpaceX’s first crew flight said Tuesday that their Dragon capsule “came alive” and sounded like a beast as it descended through the atmosphere to a smooth splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.
Two days after returning from the International Space Station, NASA’s Bob Behnken described in vivid detail their wild ride home. SpaceX had provided Behnken and Doug Hurley video and audio of previous splashdowns, so they wouldn’t be startled during the test flight.
“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, the Dragon really, it came alive,” Behnken said from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The thrusters that keep the capsule on the track were firing almost continuously, he said.
“It doesn’t sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere, with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise,” Behnken said.
When the trunk of the capsule fell away as planned and again when the parachutes jerked open, Behnken said it felt like “getting hit in the back of a chair with a baseball bat, just a crack.”
The astronauts encountered 4.2 Gs — or 4.2 times the force of Earth’s gravity — as they descended.
Hurley said he’s “almost kind of speechless” at how well the capsule performed and how well the two-month mission went.
The biggest surprise came right after Sunday afternoon’s splashdown, when close to two dozen pleasure boats rushed toward the capsule, bobbing not quite 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
Two Coast Guard vessels stayed the required 10 miles (16 kilometers) away, but their requests for the public to stay away were ignored, putting themselves, the astronauts and the recovery team at risk, officials noted.
Hurley said the capsule’s windows were scorched from reentry and so neither he nor Behnken could see “the other flotilla that was out there.”
“We certainly appreciate the folks wanting to participate in the event, but there are some safety aspects … we’ll have to take a look at because it just can’t happen (again) like it did before,” Hurley said.
The opening of the hatch was delayed because of traces of escaping rocket fuel fumes, toxic to breathe, around the capsule.
“Just a word to the wise for folks who have ideas of coming that close again in the future,” Behnken said. “We take extreme precautions to make sure it is safe and we do that for a reason.” Source: focusnewspaper.com