SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts talk about toilet problems in space and more, but when will they land?

CAP CANAVERAL, Fla .– Thanks to Mother Nature, NASA is wondering when to bring the four astronauts from its Crew-2 mission with SpaceX home, even as their replacements wait on Earth for their own launch.

Crew-2 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Akihiko Hoside of Japan and Thomas Pesquet of France, were launched for the first time to the International Space Station (ISS) in April for a six-month mission. Agency officials say crew could return aboard their SpaceX Dragon capsule from Sunday (November 7), weather permitting.

“We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be home,” Pesquet, who represents the European Space Agency, told reporters on Friday (November 5th). “But we can say for sure that sooner rather than later.”

Live Updates: SpaceX Crew-2 and Crew-3 Astronaut Missions

The uncertainty is due to the fact that NASA has yet to take off the Crew-2 replacements. This group of Crew-3 astronauts – Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron of NASA, as well as Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency – were due to take off on October 31, but the launch was delayed due to poor conditions. weather conditions along the flight path of the rocket and a minor medical issue that arose with one of the crew members.

Weather conditions here in Cape Town are dismal, which means the agency realistically looks to the middle of next week before they can get Chari, Marshburn, Barron and Maurer off the ground.

This means that NASA will have to bring back the astronauts from Crew-2 and perform a virtual transfer of the reins to the ISS. Kimbrough says it’s not much of a big deal, but ideally the crew-2 astronauts would give the next crew some housekeeping tips and tricks.

“A lot of that transfer time just shows little things about life in space – things we’re not trained on, like eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping and those kind of little treats that we pass on to the next crew if they were here, ”he told reporters. “And if we’re not there, then Mark Vande Hei is certainly capable of doing it and bringing the next crew up to speed.” (Vande Hei, another NASA astronaut on the station, is currently in the middle of a nearly year-long trip to the station.)

Toilet problems in space

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet shared an image of the Crew Dragon Endeavor toilet on Twitter. (Image credit: Thomas Pesquet)

The crew have been busy preparing for their return trip, inspecting both their Dragon capsule and the spacesuits that will protect them on the way back to Earth.

During this inspection process, the crew found evidence of a toilet leak that was first noticed on another SpaceX capsule used during its private Inspiration4 mission, which launched in September. (As part of this mission, four civilians took a three-day trip around Earth to raise funds for St. Jude Children Research Hospital.)

SpaceX has since redesigned its toilets so crews can use them without fear of leaks. However, that does not include Crew-2’s Dragon Endeavor, which is currently docked at the ISS. To that end, NASA and SpaceX have instructed the crew not to use the toilet but instead rely on diapers if they need to relieve themselves on the return trip.

“Yes, we can’t use the restroom on Dragon for the return trip, and of course that’s sub-optimal,” McArthur told reporters when asked about the restroom dilemma. “But, you know, spaceflight is full of little challenges and that’s just one more that we’ll meet and take care of in our mission.”

“So we’re not too worried about it. I think we have a good plan for the future.”

Kimbrough said the crew had the opportunity to inspect Dragon Endeavor a few times, and even look under the floor to see if the same leak had occurred in their Dragon as in Dragon Resilience, which launched the Inspiration4 mission.

“We had to go under the panels in the ground, so to speak several times with different types of video cameras, to give the SpaceX and NASA teams data to see whether or not it looked like the Inspiration4 vehicle or not,” a- he declared. . “Then they came up with the plan after seeing some of the videos [we recorded].

“They did a bunch of tests over the last month, you know, about four to six weeks, to clean the vehicle,” he added. “So we are very happy about it. “

Tasty taco treats

One of the big projects the crew worked on while in space was a plant growth experiment that looked at how Hatch peppers grow in microgravity. Last week, the crew were able to harvest their first harvest and enjoy tasty tacos with a little extra spice thanks to the freshly grown peppers.

“It was a really great experience going on for us,” said McArthur. We can come and check on the plants, and sometimes when someone comes into the habitat, we can come and smell the plants and see the peppers growing. ”

“So that was really a good morale boost as well as an interesting science project,” she said, adding that they got to taste both green and red chili.

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Despite the fact that there was no Halloween launch this year, the crew-2 astronauts still had their own version of trick-or-treat on the station, with a few treats provided by the people on the ground. . According to Kimbrough, Darth Vader even visited them, which was a surprise.

Earlier this month, after arriving at Kennedy Space Center, Crew-3’s Kayla Barron said her fellow NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei had suits to wear on the station, but that plan was a bit diverted because the launch was postponed.

Related: Halloween in space! These wild astronaut costumes are out of this world

A mission to remember

NASA SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA are gone, Thomas Pesquet of ESA and Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough of NASA compete in the Space Olympics aboard the International Space Station. (Image credit: ESA / NASA – T. Pesquet)

Pesquet, Kimbrough, McArthur and Hoshide all agree that their time at the station has been memorable and stimulating and that they try to make the most of every minute they have left on the space station.

“As we prepare to leave, it’s kind of a bittersweet feeling because we might never come back to see the ISS,” he said. “And it really is a magical place.”

Pesquet said seeing Earth from space and doing important research that benefits everyone here on Earth is a dream come true. “To me, that’s what dreams are made of,” he said. “And I am very grateful that people dreamed of the ISS some time ago and then worked hard to make it happen and to build it for the benefit of all.”

The crew-2 astronauts, which were part of Expedition 65 and now Expedition 66, were really able to perform a ton of science experiments in space. This achievement is one of the main goals of the Commercial Crew program: to provide an additional crew member so that more time is spent on research.

Pesquet, the station’s first French commander, says he has only one wish: to keep the ISS in top shape and in flight for years to come. He said he and his teammates were happy to have played a small part in his upkeep, and Pesquet and Kimbrough worked together to install a new set of solar panels that will help keep the ISS powered for years to come.

Although an official return date has not yet been announced, NASA says the earliest possible for the crew to return home is Sunday, November 7. Where they land will be determined once they undock from the space station and have a better idea of ​​the weather conditions.

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Where Facebook

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