SpaceX Dragon Jump Starts Sensory Experience Outlines NASA Astronaut

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After the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Crew-3 mission returned from the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this month, members of the crew were part of their first media teleconference yesterday. During the event, NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari, and the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer described their experience of spending six months onboard the orbiting space laboratory and shared new details of what it's like to fly on Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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The Crew-3 is the third operational crewed rotation that SpaceX has delivered to and brought back from the ISS. The previous two crews have also shared their experiences of traveling on the Crew Dragon, which is the first American human-rated spaceship to launch since the end of the Space Shuttle era.

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As part of his return journey, NASA astronaut Chari shared what the return part of the journey feels like. His narration extended what his fellow astronaut Victor Glover described as living and working on the ISS as part of an interview given to Hollywood actor Tom Cruise. In his talk, the astronaut shared that living on the ISS comes alongside constantly hearing background noises.

Chari built on this and described the experience of switching from experiencing the space station to experiencing the journey back home on Earth. Most striking to him were the human senses coming back to life as the Dragon traveled to Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon with the Crew-3 inside reenters the Earth's atmosphere on Friday May 6, 2022. and is visible as a bright streak in the night sky. Image: SpaceX

In response to a question asking about the experience of what it felt like returning to Earth on the Crew Dragon and the backups for the four main parachutes, the astronaut illustrated that:

So for reentry there's different phases there's like an entry prep, then entry one and then entry two and they all kind of have different phases. But to Bob's [NASA astronaut Robert Behnken] description I think what's unique about Dragon is... I don't know it... [IF] it's unique but since you're sitting right near in the closed vehicle you can hear all the valves you can hear prop [PROPELLANT] pressurizations changing, so it's a very cool experience especially when you've been on the space station where there's a lot of background fan noises and you don't hear thrusters firing you don't hear the things. So when you're back in the Dragon and you can hear all those things actuating it's really neat and I think when your senses come back alive as the Gs start to come on, it just adds that audio dynamic on it. And then as the air builds, you decelerate you're feeling g forces, you're hearing the air sound buffet that gets like a very loud whooshing you're seeing this pretty much constant pink glow from the plasma and these sparklers coming off so that's just pretty much all your senses are being energized and they're coming back alive as you've been in microgravity. So your brain's processing all this information.

So I think it adds this you know incredibleness to it beyond even what you're experiencing. And then for the chutes, there's a whole bunch of backup systems. I mean to include manual backups, hardwired switches in the control panel. There is no, I think what you're asking like a retro rocket system there's nothing like that would fire at the last second but there's essentially two levels of failure backup and redundancy. There's barometric vs GPS altitudes and like I said if all else fails you can even just manually actuate chutes. So there's quite a few ways to get the chutes deployed and the four has redundancy in itself. You know we've seen the previous ones whether it's a lagging chute or things we've tested all the way down to having a whole chute not even function still it works just fine. So quite a bit of redundancy in that design and I think to date has proven to be a very soft ride. You know for landing I was, Tom has had the experience of landing multiple ways but I was expecting to have the wind knocked out of me but it was actually more getting like pushed in the back. It was surprisingly gentle the landing which was...I was very happy about.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon as it splashes down off of the Florida coast on Friday May 6, 2022. Image: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA

Raja Chari was not the only NASA astronaut who described what it's like to fly on SpaceX's spaceship. Thomas Marshburn, who is a veteran space flier and has traveled on the Space Shuttle, the Russian Soyuz, and the Crew Drago shared how nearly no input is required to fly the spacecraft.

He explained in a response to a question asking whether it was hard to fly the Dragon back to Earth that:

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We're largely at a monitoring role on the way back. The automatics of the system, are always, at least for us, certainly seem to be right on the mark and very accurate. So largely we're watching, we know what's supposed to happen, we have the tools we need to monitor what's going on. We're always thinking about if the next step doesn't work what are we gonna do. So Raja as a commander was very good at leading the whole team through. Here we are coming up to the next stage of the reentry and here's all the things we're going to do if it doesn't come out as planned, so we were able to utilize the training through that but it was a pretty smooth ride.

Later on, Marshburn also shared his willingness to spend the rest of his life in space if his family would join him.

To learn more about what it's like to fly on SpaceX's spacecraft, take a look at: