NASA’s Crew-2 Astronauts Prepare for Flight Home

From left to right: Crew-2 astronauts Thomas Pesquest, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Akihiko Hoshide. NASA

NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-2 astronauts are preparing for their trip back to Earth, despite a broken toilet and a delayed Crew-3 arrival at the International Space Station (ISS).

American astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, and the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet hope to begin their journey home on Sunday, November 7.

The crew answered questions during an on-orbit news conference and discussed their achievements during their stay on the ISS. In June, Kimbrough and Pesquet conducted three spacewalks, which Kimbrough described as one of the highlights of the mission.

“We had some intense times, and I would say, they kind of went in waves,” he said.

The Crew-2 astronauts have been on the ISS since April 23 and have spent the time conducting hundreds of experiments, including growing the first ever chile peppers in space.

“We’ve all been very excited about this Plant Habitat-04 project that’s been ongoing for over a hundred days, when Shane initiated the project by planting the seeds,” said NASA astronaut Megan McArthur. “And then it has been run from scientists on the ground for these several months, and so it’s been a really nice ongoing experiment for us.”

After growing the chili peppers, the crew used them to make green chili tacos, which one reporter jokingly suggested may have been the reason for the Crew Dragon’s toilet malfunctions.

“We aren’t able to use the toilet on Dragon for the return trip, and of course, that’s suboptimal,  but we are prepared to manage that in the time that we’re onboard Dragon on the way home,” McArthur said. “Spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges. This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission. We’re not too worried about it. I think we have a good plan moving forward.”

As previously stated in a press briefing, the Crew-2 astronauts will have to utilize their “undergarments” if they need relief during their hours-long trip back to Earth.

“Our intent is to not use the system at all, right, for the return leg home,” said NASA commercial crew program manager Steve Stich during the briefing. “Because of what we’ve seen with fluid…so we don’t intend to use that system at all. And we have other means to allow the crew to, um, perform the functions they need to.”

Given the uncertain timing of Crew-3′s arrival to the ISS, the astronauts currently on board aren’t sure if they will conduct a direct handover, meaning Crew-2 might leave before Crew-3 arrives.

“A lot of that handover time that we’re scheduled with the next crew, is just showing little things on living in space, more than how to do a certain procedure, cause most of us can follow those things,” Kimbrough said. “But it’s the little things that you don’t get trained on like eating and going to the bathroom and sleeping and those kind of little tidbits that we would pass on to the next crew if they were here.”

Currently, Crew-3 is waiting in quarantine for its launch window to open up late Saturday night. The launch was delayed once because of unfavorable weather conditions, then again because of a minor medical issue, which was not COVID-19-related.

Jeremy attained his bachelor's in journalism and emerging media from Kennesaw State University. He also served in the Georgia Air National Guard as a C-130 Crew Chief for six years, holding an associate in aircraft maintenance technology.

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