CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX safelyon Sunday, making the first U.S. 8 moonshot. The Dragon capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, just before 3 a.m., ending the second astronaut flight for company. It was an express trip home, lasting just 6 1/2 hours.
The astronauts, three American and one Japanese, flew back in the same capsule — named— which they launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in November. “We welcome you back to planet Control radioed moments after splashdown. “For those enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you’ve miles on this voyage.” “We’ll take those miles,” said spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins. “Are they transferrable?” must check with the company’s marketing department.
Within a half-hour of splashdown, the charred capsule — resembling a giant toasted marshmallow — had been hoisted onto the recovery ship, with the astronauts exiting soon afterward. NASA and SpaceX managers marveled at how fast and smooth the operation went. The company’s senior adviser, Hans Koenigsmann, sai,d “It looked more like a race car pit stop than anything else.” Hopkins was the first out, doing a little dance as he emerged under the intense spotlights.
“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together,” he told SpaceX flight controllers at headquarters in Hawthorne, California. “Quite frankly, you all are. Congratulations. It’s great to be back.” The 167-day capsule launching from the U.S. The previous record of 84 in 1974. undocking left seven people at the space station, four of whom arrived a week ago via SpaceX.
“Earthbound!” After departing the station, NASA astronaut Victor Glover, the capsule’s pilot,. “One to family and home!” Hopkins and Glover and NASA’s Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi should have returned to Earth last Wednesday, but high offshore winds forced attempts. Managers switched to a rare, dark splashdown to take advantage of calm weather.
, just in case, and even recovered its most recent station cargo capsule from the Gulf of Mexico in darkness. Infrared cameras tracked the astronauts’ capsule as it re-entered the atmosphere; it resembled a bright star streaking through the night sky. All four main parachutes could be seen deploying just before splashdown, also visible in the infrared.
Apollo 8 — NASA’s first flight to the moon with astronauts —Hawaii on Dec. 27, 1968. That was it for nighttime crew splashdowns — until Sunday. Eight years later, a ended upin the darkk, partially frozen lake in Kazakhstan, blown off course in a blizzard.
Despite the early hour, the Coast Guard was in full force to enforce an 11-mile (18-kilometer) keep-out zone around the bobbing Dragon capsule. For SpaceX’s first crew return in August, pleasure boaters swarmed the tablet, a . Leisure boats stayed away this . 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 to .
“It’s not very often you get to wake up on theand sleep in Houston,” chief flight director Holly Ridings told reporters. The astronauts’ capsule, Resilience, willreturn to Cape Canaveral for refurbishment for SpaceX’s first private crew mission in September. The docking mechanism will be removed, and a brand-new domed windowwill be placedits place. A tech billionaire has purchased the entire three-day flight, which will orbit 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the . He’ll fly with a pair of and a physician assistant from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, his charity for the mission.
NASA turned to private companies to service the next year. The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. SpaceX began in 2012 and, last May, launched its first crew, ending NASA’s reliance on Russia for astronaut transport. SpaceX’s next astronaut launch for NASA will follow in October. Boeing isn’t expected to launch astronauts until early