ASTRONAUTS living on the space station are being forced to endure cramped sleeping arrangements.
That’s because Nasa on Thursday delayed a flight that was due to take four of the 11 current crew members back to Earth.
The ISS crew get their shut-eye in sleeping bags strapped to the walls within special podsCredit: nasa
The nervy descent onboard a SpaceX capsule was scheduled to begin today but has now been suspended indefinitely.
It means the ISS, which orbits 250 miles (400km) above Earth, will remain jam-packed for at least a couple more days while Nasa and SpaceX figure out a new departure time.
The 11 astronauts and cosmonauts onboard make up the largest crew in a decade.
Poor weather conditions at the landing zone near Florida forced flight controllers to postpone the Crew-1 return mission for the second time this week.
The 11-strong crew currently onboard the ISS. The station will remain jam-packed until Nasa can schedule a return flight for four members of the teamCredit: nasa
Nasa had originally planned to carry out the 24-hour ride on Wednesday but pushed it back to April 30 due to blustery conditions.
Four astronauts are due to take part in the flight: Nasa’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker alongside Soichi Noguchi of Japan’s space agency, Jaxa.
“Mission teams from Nasa and SpaceX will meet again on Friday to further review opportunities for the safe return of Crew-1,” Nasa said in a statement.
“Crew Dragon is in great health on the space station, and teams will continue to look for the optimal conditions for both splashdown and recovery.”
Inside a SpaeX Crew Dragon capsule, where two ISS crew members are currently bunkingCredit: spacex
Jaxa confirmed in a statement that a new flight schedule would be announced “once it is determined”.
That makes sleeping arrangements a little awkward, as the orbiting space lab only has seven sleeping pods.
Two crew members have been forced to bunk in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules currently docked to the station.
A further two are having to improvise by strapping their sleeping bags to the walls within one of the maze-like craft’s numerous compartments.
Nappers must strap themselves to the station to avoid floating away
“The nice thing about sleeping in space is that just about anywhere can be your bedroom,” Nasa spokesman Dan Huot said last week.
Limited sleeping space isn’t the only reason the ISS is a little too cramped for comfort.
Upon arrival at the station last November, the Crew-1 team made up four of seven occupants.
Walker explained at the time that the burgeoning crew meant astronauts were forced to line up for gym equipment.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule docks with the International Space Station last weekCredit: AFP
“One of the big things we have to be more mindful of is the scheduling of everything, especially the exercise equipment,” Walker said.
“We all have to exercise every day and it’s hugely important.
“There are much tighter schedules associated with the equipment which give us less flexibility in the rest of our day.”
The ISS is more crowded than usual following the arrival of four astronauts last week as part of SpaceX’s successful Crew-2 mission.
The crew will depart the ISS on Friday
A Crew Dragon capsule lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on April 23.
The mission marked the second “operational” space station team to be launched by Nasa aboard a SpaceX vehicle since the United States resumed flying astronauts into space from US soil last year.
Astronauts had flown to orbit onboard Russian rockets during a nine-year hiatus at the end of the US space shuttle program in 2011.
It was also the third crewed flight launched to orbit under Nasa’s fledgling public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company founded and owned by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The ISS is a little crowded at the moment, with 11 astronauts and cosmonauts on boardCredit: AFP
What is SpaceX?
Here’s what you need to know…
SpaceX is a cash-flushed rocket company that wants to take man to Mars.
It was set up by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in 2002 and is based in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX’s first aim was to build rockets that can autonomously land back on Earth for refurbishment and re-use.
The technology makes launching and operating space flights more efficient, and therefore cheaper.
SpaceX currently uses its reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to fly cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for Nasa.
It also carries satellites and other space tech into orbit for various government agencies and multinational companies.
The company took astronauts to the ISS for the first time in 2020.
Other future missions involve carrying tourists to the ISS and astronauts to the Moon and Mars.
Musk has repeatedly said he believes humanity must colonise Mars to save itself from extinction.
He plans to get a SpaceX rocket to the Red Planet by 2027.
SpaceX boss Elon Musk ahead of last week’s Crew-2 launchCredit: Reuters
The first was an out-and-back test mission carrying just two astronauts into orbit last May.
The Crew-2 team includes two Nasa astronauts – mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 53, and pilot Megan McArthur, 49.
They were joined by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and Frenchman and European Space Agency engineer Thomas Pesquet, 43.
The group is expected to spend about six months aboard the orbiting research platform conducting science experiments and maintenance before returning to Earth.
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