With a Rare Nighttime Splashdown, SpaceX Returns Four ISS Astronauts to Earth
Published on May 02, 2021 at 08:34PM
Four astronauts in a SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico this morning at 2:57 a.m. ET — returning from the International Space Station in the first U.S. crew splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot in 1968.
It was an express trip home, lasting just 6 1/2 hours… “We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” SpaceX’s Mission Control radioed moments after splashdown. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage….”
The 167-day mission was the longest for a crew capsule launching from the U.S. The previous record of 84 days was set by NASA’s final Skylab station astronauts in 1974. Saturday night’s undocking left seven people at the space station, four of whom arrived a week ago via SpaceX…
Once finished with their medical checks on the ship, the astronauts planned to hop on a helicopter for the short flight to shore, then catch a plane straight to Houston for a reunion with their families. “It’s not very often you get to wake up on the space station and go to sleep in Houston,” chief flight director Holly Ridings told reporters.
The astronauts’ capsule, Resilience, will head back to Cape Canaveral for refurbishment for SpaceX’s first private crew mission in September… A tech billionaire has purchased the entire three-day flight, which will orbit 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the space station. He’ll fly with a pair of contest winners and a physician assistant from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, his designated charity for the mission.
SpaceX’s next astronaut launch for NASA will follow in October.
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