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Four astronauts are scheduled to return home from the International Space Station this week, capping a nearly six-month mission in space, but inclement weather at the crew fly site is causing delays.
The astronauts — NASA’s Jill Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, as well as ESA’s Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti — were scheduled to leave the space station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Thursday morning. But NASA had to abandon the departure due to unfavorable weather conditions on Earth.
NASA and SpaceX are now targeting 11:35 a.m. ET to leave the Crew Dragon, and the crash could happen off the Florida coast just a few hours later, at 4:50 p.m. ET, according to a NASA press release.
Weather delays in spacecraft launches or return from the International Space Station are all too common, especially as unpredictable storms hit launch sites off the coast of Florida.
According to NASA, “Mission teams continue to monitor a cold front passing through Florida on Thursday, October 13, bringing strong winds and rainy weather near areas of water spatter off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.” “Current weather forecasts show greater certainty in the forecast on Friday due to the high pressure system behind the cold front, which is expected to bring more favorable conditions for airflow and recovery.”
Ground crews are expected to check the weather again overnight.
Usually it is the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will bring the astronauts home Seven potential landing zones Off the coast of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville.
It is not yet clear which launch site NASA and SpaceX are targeting for Friday.
This mission, called Crew-4, set a historic precedent for the International Space Station, 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 into space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983. The International Space Station has hosted more than 250 astronauts since 2000, but not a single black woman has made it. Previously the opportunity to live and work in space for an extended period yet.
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 customer role – allowing private companies to design, build and test new spacecraft to serve NASA astronauts while still 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 purchasing seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX is renewing capabilities for human orbital spaceflight from US soil in 2020 with the launch of its Experimental Mission 2, which has transported two NASA astronauts to the space station.
Crew-4 is the fifth flight made by SpaceX as part of its partnership with NASA, and the space agency has continued to purchase additional flights from the company led by founder and CEO Elon Musk.
The return of Crew-4 astronauts to Earth comes less than a week after The crew of 5 astronauts has arrived On a separate SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The mission teams have spent the past few days on a brief handover period to ensure a smooth transition between crews.
NASA officials continued to expand the agency’s partnership with SpaceX, increasing the value of their total deal to include 15 fully manned missions worth more than $4.9 billion.
Since SpaceX has developed Crew Dragon under a commercial fixed-price contract, it retains ownership of the vehicle. This means that the privately owned company also has the ability to sell seats to whomever it desires. SpaceX has already conducted two Crew Dragon missions with full funding from wealthy thrill seekers. And there they are Future special missions in the works.
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