Four astronauts were strapped to their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, disembarked from the International Space Station and plunged into a pre-dawn flight in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, stopping the first operational flight of a futuristic SpaceX ferry.
First Crew Commander Michael Hopkins, along with NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soishi Noguchi, parted from the port facing space in the Harmony unit before the station at 8:35 p.m. EST. Saturday.
This created the second test water landing for NASA’s post-shuttle commercial crew program and only the third night in space history – the first in nearly 45 years.
But The Crew Dragon performed a manual return to Earth, rose from orbit, deployed four large parachutes, and settled into a light drizzle south of Panama City, Fla. At 2:56 a.m., and concluded a mission covering 2,688 orbits in the 168 days since launch last November.
Dragon, on behalf of NASA and the SpaceX teams, welcomes you to planet Earth and thanks you for piloting SpaceX, via the company’s capsule communication device. “For those who are signed up to our frequent flyer program, I earned 68 million miles on this trip.”
Hopkins replied, “It’s good to be back on planet Earth.” “And we will take those kilometers. Are they transferable? ”
“And Dragon, we’ll have to refer you to our marketing department for this policy.”
Despite dark, NASA’s WB-57 tracking plane captured stunning infrared views of the capsule as it descended into the dense lower atmosphere as cameras from SpaceX’s rescue ship showed the moment. of collapse.
SpaceX crews rushed to the Crew Dragon to secure the spacecraft and transport it aboard the company’s rescue ship. The astronauts remained inside, waiting to be transported to the capsule, as individuals stood beside them to help them, on stretchers if necessary, as they began to readjust to gravity. after five and a half months in space.
“What a journey! Thanks to teams @ NASA, SpaceX and @ USCG for a safe and successful return trip to Earth, ”Glover tweeted. “Another step closer to family and home!”
Before climbing on his own, Hopkins dispatched flight controllers to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Saying, “On behalf of Crew-1 and our families, we just want to thank you.”
“We want to thank you for this incredible vehicle, its flexibility,” he said. “We said before the mission and I’ll say it again here after, it’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together. So ultimately, I just want to say quite frankly, you all change the world. Congratulations. It’s amazing to come back. ”
After medical checks and home phone calls with friends and family, the four crew members were to be disembarked by helicopter and delivered to NASA staff on their return flight to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
While mission managers prefer to land in daylight, inclement weather has ruled out re-entry plans on Wednesdays and Saturdays. With moderate winds expected early Sunday, NASA and SpaceX have agreed to aim for the return of Crew 1 astronauts before dawn.
“Night landing? At sea? Fortunately there is a Navy pilot on board! I received the message ”AstroVicGlover !!! “Astronaut Nick Haigh on Twitter, referring to Glover’s experience as the pilot of the F / A18 aircraft carrier.” Resilience crew. “
Unlike the Crew Dragon’s first test flight last August, when the spacecraft was quickly surrounded by boats enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in the bay, the Coast Guard planned to set up a 10 mile wide safety for this landing to keep early morning spectators at bay. A way.
The Return of the Dragon Crew completed a record-breaking crew course requiring two launches and landings with four different spacecraft over a period of just three weeks to replace the entire seven-person crew on the International Space Station.
On April 9, Prof.Oleg Nowitzki, Piotr Dubrovnik and NASA astronaut Mark Vandy He was transferred to the station after the launch of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They replaced – Sergey Rijikov, Sergey Kod Svershkov and Kate Robbins – who returned to Earth on April 17.
Then, on April 24, Crew Dragon brought in Crew 2 Captain Shane Kimbro, NASA astronaut Megan MacArthur, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japanese pilot Akihiko Hoshid.. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket was the He also helped launch Hopkins & Co., the crew aboard the station.
After helping Crew-2 astronauts settle aboard the lab complex, Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi,Say goodbye to his seven crew members on Saturday night and paraded in their Crew Dragon for their class.
After traveling a safe distance further, the ship’s flight computer triggered the ship’s thrusters for about 16.5 minutes starting at 2:03 a.m. Sunday.
Traveling through space at speeds of over 17,100 miles per hour – over 83 football fields per second – the missile launch slowed the Dragon crew by 258 miles per hour, enough to drop the other side of orbit in the dense, low atmosphere on a track aimed at the Bay Mexico landing zone.
Protected by a high-tech heat shield, the Crew Dragon struck the perceptible atmosphere at around 2:45 a.m., slowing rapidly in an air scuff fire.
Once out of the plasma-heated area, the spacecraft’s parachutes opened, allowing the ship to settle into a relatively pleasant effect in the bay.
The previous night’s landing on the waters took place in October 1976 when two Soviet-era Soyuz spacecraft astronauts made an unplanned landing in snowstorm-like conditions after the failed l mooring and were diverted from their course in a large lake in Kazakhstan. It took the rescue teams nine hours to move the spacecraft to land and rescue the astronauts.
The only other nocturnal collapse occurred in December 1968 when the Apollo 8 crew, returning from a Christmas expedition around the moon, made a planned non-eventual landing before dawn in the Pacific Ocean.