FLORIDA, USA — SpaceX has delivered four astronauts back to Earth, making the first U.S. crew splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot.
The Dragon capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico near the Florida Panhandle early Sunday, just 6 1/2 hours after departing the International Space Station.
The previous story is below.
After weather conditions on Earth caused NASA and SpaceX to move Crew-1's undocking to May 1 and splashdown to early May 2, the Dragon capsule has successfully undocked from the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and JAXA mission specialist Soichi Noguchi said their final goodbyes to the other astronauts aboard the ISS and climbed into the SpaceX Dragon Resilience capsule for departure back to Earth.
Undocking was successful at 8:35 p.m. ET on May 1. Splashdown is set to follow more than six hours later at approximately 2:57 a.m. ET Sunday.
Here's how to watch the splashdown:
The astronauts were previously scheduled to splash down Saturday off the coast of Florida. NASA says the decision to delay was made following a review of weather conditions which continue to predict wind speeds "above the return criteria."
The four-person crew was the first operational flight to the International Space Station of the Crew Dragon following the historic Demo-2 mission. The flight also marked the first time an international crew member flew on a commercial spacecraft from the U.S.
While onboard the orbiting laboratory, Crew-1 conducted research, spacewalks, oversaw the first commercial crew port relocation of Crew Dragon, and welcomed the arrival of two other crew vehicles.
One of those crew vehicles was the Crew Dragon Endeavour carrying the third commercial crew for NASA and SpaceX.
The addition of Crew-2 marked yet another historic moment for the ISS with eleven astronauts occupying the football field size laboratory. The last time that happened was at least a decade earlier when the space shuttle program was still running, according to NASA.
Key details to keep in mind:
- Crew Dragon Resilience will splash down in one of seven predetermined locations off of Florida's coast.
- Crew-1 will be arriving back to Earth with "important and time-sensitive research."
- You can find a coverage timeline here
For Crew-1's return, they will go through autonomous undocking to depart the space station before making the trek from low-Earth orbit to the waters off Florida's coast.
Once the spacecraft performs its deorbit burn, it could land in one of seven targeted landing zones spread across the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. NASA says it selects its crew rescue and recovery operation locations about two weeks prior to the astronaut's return, but the specifics are kept private to avoid boater interactions with the capsule.
"NASA and SpaceX closely coordinate with the U.S. Coast Guard to establish a 10-nautical-mile safety zone around the expected splashdown location to ensure safety for the public and for those involved in the recovery operations, as well as the crew aboard the returning spacecraft," the space agency wrote.
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