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‘It sounds like an animal’: NASA astronauts describe the Crew Dragon re-entry experience – Space.com

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is seen as it lands with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2src2src.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is seen as it lands with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020.

(Image: © NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft practically came alive during its dramatic dive through Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday (Aug. 2), its NASA crew reported.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley said they felt shimmies, tremors and rolls as the capsule, named Endeavour, returned to Earth Sunday to wrap up the nearly picture-perfect Demo-2, SpaceX’s first-ever crewed mission.

“The atmosphere makes noise; you can start to hear that rumble outside the vehicle,” Behnken said during a news conference today (Aug. 4). “It sounds like an animal, going through the atmosphere, with all the puffs and the atmospheric noise. It continues to gain magnitude as you descend through the atmosphere.”

Full coverage: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronaut test flight

Tempting as it might have been to look out the window as Endeavour neared its splashdown off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, the astronauts elected not to do so. The only available views in the spacecraft are near the astronauts’ feet, and the spaceflyers said they felt it was best to monitor their displays rather than crane their heads.

“It didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do, as the vehicle was starting maneuvering. At that point, we were trying to make sure we were good and strapped in,” Behnken said.

The sounds and sensations were normal, expected and not unfamiliar to Behnken and Hurley. Coming into the two-month-long Demo-2, the duo already had four spaceflights between them, all of which employed NASA’s now-retired space shuttle

SpaceX also gave the astronauts audio recordings and other information about Crew Dragon’s first trip to the space station, on the uncrewed Demo-1 mission in 2019, to learn about conditions in the spacecraft, Behnken and Hurley said today.

But Demo-2’s return to Earth was still a wild ride. Separation of the crew service “trunk” prior to re-entry felt like being “hit in the back of a chair with a baseball bat, a crack,” Behnken said. Parachute deployment produced “a significant jolt,” he added, and the crew felt the splash of the ocean before water flowed over the windows. 

“You can see from just an overall view of the capsule that re-entry is a pretty demanding environment, with the scorches on the vehicle, and the windows were not spared any of that,” Hurley said. 

For all the sights and sounds the crew experienced during re-entry, they missed out on an event that played before television cameras in the minutes after landing. As recovery crews worked to secure Endeavour, several dozen private boats swarmed the scene, defying orders from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The astronauts, however, could see very little outside the capsule and didn’t know of this flotilla until after they were whisked onto the SpaceX recovery ship GO Navigator and removed from Endeavour, they said.

NASA, SpaceX and the Coast Guard have all said they plan to make changes for future splashdowns to prevent a boater gatecrash from happening again, citing safety concerns. For example, after splashdown, recovery crews recorded elevated levels of nitrogen tetroxide around Endeavour, a toxic gas that could pose a risk to unprotected people who got too close. (Behnken, Hurley and the recovery crews were in no danger, NASA and SpaceX officials said, stressing that they plan for these sorts of issues.)

Hurley echoed the concern: “It can’t happen [again] like it did before,” he said of the boaters.

‘Space dad’ jokes: NASA astronauts made prank calls after historic SpaceX splashdown

Hurley and Behnken said the mission otherwise went as smoothly as the best simulations they experienced, as opposed to the ones where they were taught how to deal with failures. Hurley added that he was particularly surprised that Dragon’s drogue parachutes deployed at exactly the right time, since atmospheric dynamics are hard to predict for a new spacecraft.

Hurley warned it is incumbent upon future spacecraft teams “not to get complacent” even though Endeavour performed so well. The Demo-2 astronauts will meet next week with the four-person crew of the next Crew Dragon mission, which is known as Crew-1. The coming flight, SpaceX’s first operational mission to the space station under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA, is scheduled to launch in late September

That liftoff won’t happen, however, until NASA and SpaceX have examined the Demo-2 data in detail. Team members will do this during several weeks of routine mission debriefings, which will give them a chance to go over the minor problems and “lessons learned” the Demo-2 crew encountered.

One challenge for Crew-1 will be flying four astronauts instead of two, which is something NASA and others have tried to simulate. For example, docking procedures were simulated using four astronauts on the space station: Hurley, Behnken, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin. 

Cassidy and Ivanishin have flown aboard Russia’s three-person Soyuz spacecraft and could bring that experience to bear in the docking discussions, complementing Behnken and Hurley’s shuttle missions, Hurley said.

The Demo-2 crewmembers added that they’re looking forward to spending more time with their families. Behnken said it is now his turn to take on the brunt of home responsibilities to support his wife, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur. She will fly aboard Crew-2 in 2021, riding aboard the same Endeavour capsule that Behnken and Hurley used.

Their own mission, Hurley added, “took years in the making. I think Doug and I have been working at it for a good solid five years at this point, and it is awesome to see it to fruition.”

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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WHO sounds warning on coronavirus ‘second peak’: Live updates – Al Jazeera English

  • The World Health Organization has warned of the risks of an “immediate second peak” as countries ease up on lockdowns, urging governments in Europe and the US to step up surveillance, testing and tracking measures to keep the disease under control.  

  • Spain has revised its death toll downwards by nearly 2,000 people after checking data from the regions and discovering some deaths had been recorded twice while others had not been the result of the coronavirus. 

  • Public anger continues to simmer in the UK over Dominic Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief political adviser, who apparently flouted lockdown to drive from his home in London to his parents’ house in the north when he suspected he had coronavirus. Cummings adopted a conciliatory tone at an extraordinary news conference on Monday but did not apologise.  
  • Nearly 5.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 346,000 people have died, while more than 2.2 million have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, May 26

05:30 GMT –

I’m handing over the blog to my colleagues in Doha. Before I go, an update of developments so far this morning. As more countries ease their lockdowns (Saudi Arabia is the latest to announce a relaxation), the WHO is warning again of the dangers of a ‘second peak’. On the medical front Japan’s tests of Avigen as a coronavirus treatment have been delayed while US firm Novavax has started phase one trials for its vaccine in Australia. Meanwhile, a study has found some 8,000 more people died in Mexico city in the first months of 2020 than the average of the same period over the previous four years. 

05:20 GMT – Novavax starts coronavirus vaccine trial in Australia

US biotech firm Novavax has started trials of the novel coronavirus vaccine it’s developing.

It expects preliminary results from the phase one trial of NVX-CoV2373 by July.

The phase one trial is taking place in Australia. The second phase will include more countries.

04:35 GMT – Fujifilm COVID-19 drug research spills over into June

Research into Fujifilm’s Avigen drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19 will continue into June.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said he hoped the drug would be approved in May if its efficacy and safety could be confirmed.

“The company will continue research into next month or so, and if an application for approval is received from the company, it will be promptly reviewed,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular briefing when asked about Avigan.

Suga said trials of a coronavirus vaccine could begin as early as July, raising expectations about a candidate developed by Osaka University and biopharmaceutical firm AnGes Inc .

Avigan is the subject of at least 16 trials worldwide, though there is concern the drug has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.

Japan has given up on approving Fujifilm Holdings Corp’s anti-influenza drug #Avigan this month for the treatment of patients infected with the new coronavirus, health minister Katsunobu Kato says.https://t.co/katTFchGxm

— Kyodo News | Japan (@kyodo_english) May 26, 2020

03:50 GMT – Australia borders won’t open “anytime soon”: PM Scott Morrison

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the country won’t open its borders “anytime soon” but the government was continuing to discuss a travel corridor with New Zealand. 

“I was speaking with Prime Minister (Jacinda) Ardern this morning and we’ll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone,” Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra.

03:15 GMT – Doctors group in Japan warn against masks for infants

Children under the age of two shouldn’t wear masks because they can make breathing difficult and increase the risk of choking, the Japan Pediatric Association has warned.

“Masks can make breathing difficult because infants have narrow air passages,” which increases the burden on their hearts, the association said, adding that masks also raise the risk of heat stroke.

“Let’s stop the use of masks for children under 2-years-old,” the association said in a notice on its website.

It added that there had been very few serious coronavirus cases among children and that most kids became infected from family members, with almost no outbreaks at schools or day care facilities. 

03:00 GMT – Mexico City registers more than 8,000 more deaths than usual 

Mexico’s capital registered 8,072 more deaths in the first five months this year than the average from the same period over the previous four years, an analysis by independent researchers showed on Monday, suggesting a possible surge in fatalities to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health officials have reported 1,655 deaths from the virus in Mexico City, out of 7,394 deaths nationwide. They have also acknowledged that the true death toll is higher, but difficult to estimate because of the low testing rate.

Read more on the study here.

Mexico

Mexico has been hard hit by the coronavirus [File: Gustavo Graf/Reuters] 

02:50 GMT – Hong Kong airport to open for transit passengers

Hong Kong International Airport will open for some transit services from June 1, chief executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.

01:35 GMT – Saudi Arabia to loosen curfew from Thursday

Saudi Arabia will loosen its curfew for everywhere but Mecca from Thursday, according to the state news agency.

The curfew will be in force from 3pm (12:00 GMT) to 6am (03:00 GMT) local time.

From May 31 to June 20, it will also allow prayers in mosques with the exception of Mecca. The curfew and restrictions on prayer there will be relaxed from June 21, it said.

You can read more on that story here.  

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01:25 GMT – South Koreans required to wear masks on public transport

South Koreans now have to wear masks whenever they use public transport or take taxis.

Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho says masks will also be required on all domestic and international flights from Wednesday.

South Korea was reporting 500 new cases every in early March before it largely stabilised its outbreak with aggressive tracking and testing. But infections have been rising slightly since early May, with more people going out during warmer weather and eased social distancing guidelines.

“Until treatments and vaccines are developed, we will never know when the COVID-19 crisis could end, and until then we will have to learn how to live with COVID-19,” Yoon said.

00:00 GMT – WHO warns of “second peak” where COVID-19 apparently in decline

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that countries in which coronavirus appears to be in retreat could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak.

WHO emergencies head Dr Mike Ryan told an online briefing that, while cases were declining in many countries, they were still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Ryan said there was a chance infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time,” he said. “We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

He said countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak.”

Reopened shops in Europe eagerly await the return of tourism

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read the updates from yesterday (May 25) here.

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