UPDATED 11:18 AM PT – Monday, May 3, 2021
SpaceX completed another successful mission after four astronauts returned home safely following nearly five months in space.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience capsule successfully returned to Earth. The vessel splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday with four astronauts inside. Aboard were NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker as well as Japan’s Soichi Noguchi.
The six and a half hour ride back down from the International Space Station marked the end of the crew’s 167 day mission. The splashdown was also the first nighttime landing since the Apollo 8 Moon mission in 1968.
“It’s not very often you get to wake up on the Space Station and go to sleep in Houston, and so we’ve been talking about that in the control center,” stated Holly Ridings, Chief Flight Director of the Johnson Space Center. “You know, the orbital mechanics and the weather don’t always work out, but today they did and so so that’s pretty remarkable.”
After 167 days in space, the longest duration mission for a U.S. 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
The splashdown was the latest milestone for SpaceX and NASA partners who now have regularly scheduled human shuttles to and from space. SpaceX announced it plans to launch seven capsules for NASA over the next 15-months, including three cargo trips.
The returning astronauts were praised for their execution with officials calling their expedition “flawless” and “phenomenal.” Space agencies were so impressed with the astronauts work that they believe the next step could be a private mission.
“Today was testament to the whole Dragon design team and operations team, and also the the recovery team and the execution was was just just perfect in my eyes,” stated Hans Koenigsmann, senior advisor for SpaceX Flight Reliability. “So I think going forward, we’re ready for for this important step.”
Resilience was the first of seven missions NASA contracted with SpaceX. The next human mission is scheduled for the fall, where another team of astronauts will take on a six-month mission to the Space Station.