On Aug. 2, 2020, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley safely returned to Earth in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-2 after their stint aboard the Worldwide House Station. Their journey marked the primary time people have traveled to orbit on a commercially developed plane. We’re undoubtedly residing sooner or later, huh?
There’s another excuse Bob and Doug’s return was notable, although. The spacecraft made a water touchdown (or splashdown) — NASA’s first in 45 years. After Apollo-Soyuz’s splashdown in 1975, NASA switched to floor landings. So, why does SpaceX land on water?
Why does SpaceX land on water?
With regards to bringing astronauts again from house, there’s just one purpose: Get everybody dwelling safely. That may be completed both by touchdown on water or stable floor, however there are two huge the explanation why a water touchdown may be most popular.
To start with, touchdown in water cushions the spacecraft’s touchdown with out the necessity for a braking rocket. As a substitute, the capsule is supplied with parachutes that enable it to glide all the way down to the water. SpaceX initially deliberate for the Crew Dragon to do floor landings, however in the end determined that doing a splashdown would enable for a extra simplified capsule design. SpaceX founder Elon Musk supplied some additional clarification on Twitter:
Secondly, when you think about the truth that a lot of the planet is roofed with water, it’s clearly lots simpler to goal for the water than for the land. There’s actually much less room for error in terms of aiming a capsule for a water touchdown. Nonetheless, water landings aren’t utterly with out danger.
What are the dangers of water landings?
As we already talked about, NASA stopped doing splashdown landings after the Apollo-Soyuz mission’s water touchdown in July of 1975. Throughout this reentry, the crew splashed down safely, however there was one significant issue. Throughout reentry, the crew was by accident uncovered to poisonous hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fumes from unignited rocket propellant. This led to respiration and eye issues for the astronauts aboard, who had been hospitalized for 2 weeks after splashdown.
Within the case of astronauts Bob and Doug, engineers aboard restoration ship GO Navigator detected excessive ranges of dinitrogen tetroxide across the capsule. After a 30-minute purge of the remaining gas within the thruster system, they had been capable of open the hatch and be loaded onto the restoration ship safely.
There was one different situation with Bob and Doug’s reentry — after the capsule landed within the Gulf of Mexico, a number of privately-owned boats crammed with curious onlookers surrounded it. SpaceX officers chased many of those non-public residents off, warning them that they might be uncovered to harmful fumes in the event that they remained within the space. Ultimately, although, the lookie-loos made themselves scarce and every little thing went in accordance with plan.
All issues thought-about, the primary water touchdown in 45 years went fairly darn easily. It’s arduous to not be excited concerning the leaps being made throughout the realm of house journey as of late (if solely as a result of it offers some folks hope that they could be capable of escape the planet sometime). Welcome again, Bob and Doug!