A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying 4 astronauts returned to Earth early Sunday (May 2) with an ocean splashdown off the Florida coast, efficiently finishing the corporate’s first full-fledged crewed mission to the International Space Station.
The astronauts of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission for NASA splashed down safely within the Gulf of Mexico close to Panama City at 2:56 a.m. EDT (0656 GMT), with a restoration ship swiftly retrieving their Crew Dragon capsule from the ocean. The spacecraft landed on course, marking the first nighttime splashdown of a U.S. crewed flight in 53 years. The final was NASA’s Apollo 8 moon mission on Dec. 27, 1968.
“Dragon, on behalf of NASA and SpaceX teams, we welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier program, you’ve earned 68 million miles [109 million kilometers] on this voyage,” a SpaceX crew operations and sources engineer advised the Crew-1 astronauts after splashdown.
“It is good to be back on planet Earth,” replied NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, commander of the Crew-1 mission. “We’ll take those miles. Are they transferable?”
The capsule left the house station on late Saturday (May 1) after unhealthy climate on the mission’s most important splashdown website twice delayed the crew’s return.
Crew-1 marked SpaceX’s second crewed flight to the house station and its first such flight to final for six months. The mission launched into orbit Nov. 15.
SpaceX’s first astronaut mission, Demo-2 in May 2020, was a two-month check flight that carried two astronauts to the station. Although SpaceX’s third crewed mission has launched already, as we speak’s return marked solely the second crewed splashdown for this system. That third flight, known as Crew-2, will not splash down till later this yr.
This Crew-1 Dragon capsule, which astronauts nicknamed Resilience, carried Hopkins and his fellow NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, in addition to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
The capsule splashed into the Gulf of Mexico south of Panama City, Florida, the place it was quickly met by SpaceX restoration crews, who needed to work underneath a cloak of darkness.
“The vehicle is certified to land during the day or night, so there’s not an issue with the vehicle itself,” Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew program supervisor, stated throughout reside NASA commentary earlier than splashdown. “And we’ve been practicing with the recovery crews to land in day or night.”
Stitch stated SpaceX additionally recovered an uncrewed Dragon cargo ship from the ocean at night time in January of this yr. The course of went extra easily than the Demo-2 crew restoration, in August 2020, when NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have been met by a small flotilla of private boats. This time, SpaceX and the Coast Guard refined security procedures to make sure no civilians got here too near the capsule, simply in case it leaked gas.
“Today the United States Coast Guard had several assets on scene and patrol that area. We had no leisure boats within the ellipse that we cleared for landing,” Stitch advised reporters after splashdown. “So that was much much better than last time. Overall just a great, great flight.”
The Crew-1 astronauts have been recovered by SpaceX inside about half-hour. Soon after, they boarded helicopters for the mainland en path to Houston, house of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
“It’s not very often you get to wake up on the space station and go to sleep in Houston, and so we’ve been talking about that in the control center,” Holly Ridings, NASA’s chief flight director, stated after splashdown. “You know, orbital mechanics and the weather doesn’t always work out but today they did, and so that’s pretty remarkable.”
Crew-1 overlapped for a few week in orbit with its successor, the four-astronaut Crew-2 mission. That crew consists of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The quartet will stay in orbit till the autumn, when the Crew-3 mission will head to house to take their place.
SpaceX is certainly one of two business corporations with NASA contracts to fly astronauts in house. The different firm, Boeing, is creating its Starliner crew capsule for NASA missions. That automobile is predicted to fly on a second uncrewed check flight later this yr however has not but flown astronauts.
Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission for NASA will launch within the fall. The firm will even launch 4 civilians on a personal Crew Dragon mission, known as Inspiration4, funded by American billionaire Jared Isaacman. That mission is scheduled to launch Sept. 15 on the Crew Dragon Resilience, the identical one utilized by the Crew-1 astronauts, however is not going to go to the International Space Station.
Email Meghan Bartels at [email protected] or comply with her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.