Yesterday we mentioned that SpaceX was attempting a rare nighttime splashdown for its Crew Dragon capsule, returning a quartet of astronauts from the ISS to Earth. This was the first nighttime splashdown of a capsule with crew aboard since the Apollo era. NASA and SpaceX have now confirmed that the four astronauts have splashdown successfully and returned safely home.
The capsule safely splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico in the early predawn hours Sunday, May 2. The successful splashdown of the Crew Dragon capsule closed the first operational flight for SpaceX under its contract with NASA. The second group of astronauts sent to the ISS authority Crew Dragon are currently on the space station.
Crew members aboard the capsule included commander Michael Hawkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The capsule departed the ISS from the Harmony forward module at 8:35 PM EDT on Saturday, May 1. This was only the second piloted water landing for NASA since the space shuttle has been retired and only the third nighttime splashdown in the history of space travel.
The successful landing was the first to happen in 45 years. Despite concerns about the weather and recovery efforts in the night, Crew Dragon reportedly executed a textbook splashdown with the deploying of its four parachutes going perfectly. The capsule splashed down south of Panama City, Florida, at 2:56 AM. The mission completed 2688 orbits around the planet over 168 days.
The mission began in November 2020. The astronauts were welcomed back to earth by SpaceX’s capsule communicator on behalf of both the company and NASA. The communicator jokingly noted that those enrolled in the frequent flyer program received 68 million miles.