Waiting recovery vessels are therefore being directed to the Gulf of Mexico, to waters off Pensacola in western Florida.
Two sets of parachutes are programmed to deploy – a drogue system at about 5,500m (18,000ft) in altitude when the capsule is still moving at approximately 560km/h; and then four main chutes, at 1,800m in height, which should gently deposit the vehicle on the ocean surface.
“There are bags if you need them, and we’ll have those handy,” he told reporters on Friday. “We’ll probably have some towels handy as well. If that needs to happen, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Folks that fly in space know that sometimes going uphill can have an effect on your system and sometimes coming downhill is the same way.”
Nasa has decided it will no longer own and operate crew transportation hardware in low-Earth orbit, preferring instead to buy this service off commercial partners.
This approach had reduced costs, said Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“We established basically the high-level criteria, the requirements, in terms of payload and safety, but we didn’t get involved in designing everything downstream. We let private companies go and innovate. That ultimately drove us to a point where we’re now reusing these rockets, reusing the capsules, and of course, we want to apply that to what we do with the Moon and eventually Mars,” the agency official explained.
Assuming this demonstration mission is completed successfully with a copybook splashdown, Nasa will move forward with routine, “operational” SpaceX flights, perhaps as early as the end of September.
Endeavour will go for refurbishment with the expectation it be put back on a rocket next year.
“Just like on any trip, if you pack things appropriately, it can be fun,” he joked.
“But if you pack everything at the bottom of the big van that you take on vacation, and you’ve got to get it all out one item at a time at various times, it can be tiring and eat into your enjoyment.”
Hurley and Behnken are bringing back a commemorative US flag that was left on the space station by the crew of the last shuttle mission (which happened to include Doug Hurley). The Stars and Stripes also flew on the very first shuttle mission in 1981. It’s expected to go back into space again when America returns astronauts to the Moon later this decade.