The four astronauts aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule “Resilience” safely returned to Earth on Sunday, splashing down in parachutes landing in the Gulf of Mexico after a record-setting mission to the International Space Station.
- The return of the much-awaited Crew Dragon: NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Soichi Noguchi boarded Crew Dragon and undocked from the space station at 8:35 PM ET Saturday to begin their roughly six-hour trek home. The crew splashed down off the coast of Panama City, Florida at 2:56 am ET on Sunday, NASA said in a news release.
- Resilience sets a world record: Weather conditions were reported to be near perfect, with little wind and a calm sea. “It really could not have been a more flawless journey home,” NASA public affairs officer Leah Cheshier said. Resilience set a new record for the longest spaceflight by a U.S. space capsule that carried a crew, surpassing the 84 days set by an Apollo capsule on the final flight to Skylab in 1974.
- A Floridan Night-show to remember: Crew Dragon’s nighttime plunge in the Gulf of Mexico was seen on a live feed of infrared cameras. A pair of first-responding “fast boats” raced toward the space capsule moments after it splashed down to ensure Crew Dragon’s parachutes detached upon hitting the water, as planned, so they don’t yank the capsule upside down in the water. A SpaceX recovery ship arrived shortly after to hoist Crew Dragon on a platform using a crane.
- Hints about SpaceX crew 2: Asked what the mission’s highlight was, Noguchi, who has also flown on the now-retired space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz said it was seeing the arrival of SpaceX Crew-2 on April 24. The SpaceX Crew-2 mission, which lifted off on April 23, is made up of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as Akihiko Hoshide of Japan’s space agency and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Aboard the International Space Station, they join NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov.
- All hale and hearty: “All four crew members are doing really well,” NASA’s chief flight director Holly Ridings said at the news conference. “It’s not very often you get to wake up on the space station and go to sleep in Houston… The orbital mechanics and the weather don’t always work out, but today they did.”