The four astronauts from SpaceX’s first full mission to the International Space Station (ISS) returned to Earth this Sunday off the coast of Florida.
This is the first American splashdown under cover of darkness since NASA’s Apollo 8 return from the moon in 1968.
The astronauts spent more than five months in space for the Crew-1 mission, the longest duration ever for a crew launched in a US-built spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japanese Soichi Noguchi reached the space station via the Dragon capsule after it was launched from the capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket last November.
After 167 days in space, the longest duration mission for a US spacecraft since the final Skylab mission in 1974, Dragon and the Crew-1 astronauts, @Astro_illini, @AstroVicGlover, Shannon Walker and @Astro_Soichi, returned to Earth this morning! pic.twitter.com/vuWPPrreyh
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 2, 2021
After landing from the space station on Saturday, the astronauts traveled through the atmosphere and landed in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Fla. Via parachutes on Sunday. They exited the SpaceX spacecraft within an hour of landing.
The weather conditions were almost perfect, with little wind and calm seas. “It really couldn’t have been a more perfect return trip”NASA public affairs manager Leah Cheshier said.
The landing was the first projection of a crewed and US-made spacecraft in darkness since 1968, and the second time a space capsule has landed in the Gulf of Mexico. This is only the second time NASA and SpaceX have brought astronauts back to Earth aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft.
SpaceX will then launch its second fully manned mission to the ISS for NASA in October.
NASA recently turned to private companies to end its dependence on Russia for space launches after its shuttle fleet withdrew in 2011.
Elon Musk’s company began unmanned deliveries to the ISS in 2012, and Boeing is expected to begin manned missions early next year.