“I felt so heavy”: Four astronauts recount their return to Earth with SpaceX

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Washington (AFP)

A “soft” and “unique experience” landing is slightly different from the landings on Russian Soyuz ships: The astronauts brought back Sunday from the International Space Station by SpaceX described their return to Earth, after more than 160 days in space.

American Victor Glover, one of the four astronauts on the crew called Crew-1, said: “At one point I was saying to myself, Breathe. Breathe. Because I was feeling so heavy.” “It’s kind of like those cartoon characters when they face the force of g (acceleration), and their faces are turned down.”

It was the first regular mission to be taken and then returned from the International Space Station by billionaire company Elon Musk.

The astronauts made the flight aboard the Crew Dragon capsule, which arrived at sea off Florida overnight from Saturday to Sunday.

“I was expecting this to be such an ordeal that when it really happened, it was a little less than I had imagined,” Victor Glover said at a conference in haste. He described the weight of the acceleration “in the chest,” “which made breathing difficult.”

But he said, “take off and return are unique experiences.”

“The effect was really minimal and right after the landing, you could feel the waves,” said Japanese Soichi Noguchi. “We go back to the blue planet (…), it feels great.”

NASA has contracted with SpaceX to be able to start launching astronauts into space again from American soil, something that has not been possible since 2011 with the end of the space shuttles. Until now, they have been forced into the Russian Soyuz ships that have landed on land.

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“The drop in the water was interesting, because none of us knew what to expect,” said Shannon Walker from the United States. “In my view, it was much smoother than hitting the ground.”

Soon, civilians who are not professional astronauts will take their places in the Dragon for space tourism missions. Astronauts were asked: Will these ordinary men be able to deal with re-entry into the atmosphere with this craft?

“I think they can handle it just as much,” said American Mike Hopkins.

The latter was the first to raise his hand when asked if they were ready to leave. Only Victor Glover has not.

The latter said with a big smile: “I am very happy to be on dry land and will be enjoying it for a while.”

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