Four astronauts returned early Sunday morning from the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and splashed into the Gulf of Mexico almost six months after arriving at the orbital laboratory in November last year as the first operational, long-term crew under NASA’s Commercial Crew. Program.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) boarded Crew Dragon and disembarked from the space station at 8:35 p.m. ET on Saturday for their approximately six-hour journey to home. The crew crashed off the coast of Panama City, Florida at 2:56 a.m. ET Sunday, NASA said in a statement press release.
The crew’s return was initially scheduled for Wednesday, April 28, but was delayed due to high winds in the splashdown zone.
The astronaut quartet counted 167 days on board the Space Station, a science laboratory in orbit 400 kilometers above the ground, which has housed international crews of astronauts for more than two decades.
This particular Crew Dragon spacecraft, called Resilience by its crew, was the second SpaceX capsule to allow humans to fly, following SpaceX’s first manned mission, Demo-2, in May 2020. Resilience broke the record for the longest-serving US spacecraft to have been docked aboard the ISS, surpassing the 84 days counted by the 1974 Skylab 4 crew.
Crew dragon Resilience The reentry marked the first nighttime crash of a manned US spacecraft since December 1968, when Apollo 8 crashed into the Pacific Ocean, NASA said.
The first splashdown of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule took place in August 2020 for the Demo-2 mission, during which NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were returned from space after a two-month test mission.
That splash, in the Gulf of Mexico, attracted a swarm of Florida boaters who came dangerously close to Crew Dragon. NASA and the US Coast Guard have stepped up protection from Crew-1’s splashdown to make sure no one gets close. (The concern: Crew Dragon could leak highly flammable fuels that, if ignited, could endanger anyone who gets too close. The crew inside would be safe.)