SpaceX Making 1st US Crew Splashdown in Dark Since Apollo 8

by akoloy

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—SpaceX this weekend will try the primary U.S. splashdown of returning astronauts in darkness for the reason that Apollo 8 moonshot in 1968.

Elon Musk’s firm is focusing on the predawn hours of Sunday to convey again three NASA astronauts and one from Japan, after dangerously excessive wind scuttled a pair of earlier makes an attempt.

The astronauts—solely the second crew to fly SpaceX—will depart the International Space Station on Saturday night time aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule that carried them up final November. They’ll purpose for a splashdown 6 1/2 hours later, round 3 a.m. within the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida.

SpaceX introduced again a station cargo capsule with a splashdown in darkness in January. That provides to NASA’s confidence for a nighttime homecoming, mentioned Rob Navias, a spokesman at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“SpaceX has done numerous dress rehearsals and spent a lot of time with nighttime recoveries,” he mentioned.

Navias mentioned the time slot offered one of the best climate circumstances within the coming days.

The capsule carrying Apollo 8’s three astronauts—the primary males to fly to the moon—splashed into the Pacific close to Hawaii earlier than daybreak on Dec. 27, 1968.

The Russians additionally had one crew splashdown in darkness, again in 1976. The two-man capsule couldn’t dock to the Soviet Union’s Salyut 5 house station as supposed and needed to make a hasty return, ending up in {a partially} frozen lake in Kazakhstan—in the course of a blizzard. It took hours for restoration groups to rescue the cosmonauts.

Even with the early hour, the Coast Guard guarantees to have extra patrols to maintain sightseers at a secure distance. On a Sunday afternoon final August, pleasure boaters swarmed the capsule that parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico with the primary SpaceX crew.

The departure of NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi will go away seven aboard the house station. Their replacements—representing the United States, Japan and France—arrived final weekend in their very own SpaceX capsule for a six-month mission. The three remaining crew members—one American and two Russians—launched in a Russian capsule from Kazakhstan three weeks in the past.

By Marcia Dunn

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