The four astronauts of the SpaceX Crew Dragon splash down to earth after record mission

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CNBC 02 May, 2021 - 05:33am 23 views

When is spacex landing?

After six months in space, the Crew-1 Dragon spacecraft Resilience will undock from the International Space Station at 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 GMT) to make way for a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida, on Sunday (May 2) at 2:57 a.m. EDT (0657 GMT). Space.comWatch live: SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts to depart space station

SpaceX mission control welcomed the astronauts with some humor after they touched down: "We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you've earned 68 million miles on this voyage."

The second operational SpaceX crew mission arrived at the International Space Station early on the morning of April 24, carrying four astronauts for a six-month stay in space.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft 'Endeavour,' which launched on a Falcon 9 rocket the day before, docked with the ISS at 5:22 a.m. EDT. The capsule carries an international cadre of astronauts: NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA's Akihiko Hoshide and ESA's Thomas Pesquet.

At that time, the Crew-2 mission temporarily brought the total number of astronauts on board the orbiting research laboratory to 11.

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SpaceCast Weekly - April 30, 2021

NASA Video 02 May, 2021 - 04:00am

SpaceX capsule splashes down in Gulf of Mexico as it returns home from International Space Station

Daily Mail 02 May, 2021 - 04:00am

By Katie Feehan For Mailonline

SpaceX has returned four astronauts from the International Space Station, making the first U.S. crew splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot.

The Dragon capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, just before 3am ET, ending the second astronaut flight for Elon Musk's company.

It was an express trip home, lasting just 6 and a half hours.

The astronauts, three American and one Japanese, flew back in the same capsule - named Resilience - in which they launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in November.

Their 167-day mission is the longest for astronauts launching from the U.S. The previous record of 84 days was set by NASA's final Skylab station crew in 1974.

Saturday night's undocking left seven people at the space station, four of whom arrived a week ago via SpaceX.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule lands into the Gulf of Mexico near Florida Panhandle early Sunday

NASA astronauts (L-R) Shannon Walker Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after landing

Pictured: the SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, with parachutes open, returning to Earth as it carries four astronauts just before splashdown off the coast of Panama City in Gulf of Mexico

9534531 SpaceX Dragon capsule touches down in the Gulf of Mexico as it returns home from International Space Station in first splashdown in darkness since Apollo 8 moon mission

'Earthbound!' NASA astronaut Victor Glover tweeted after departing the station. 'One step closer to family and home!'

Glover - along with NASA's Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi - should have returned to Earth last Wednesday, but high offshore winds forced SpaceX to pass up a pair of daytime landing attempts. Managers switched to a rare splashdown in darkness, to take advantage of calm weather.

SpaceX had practiced for a night-time return, just in case, and even recovered its most recent station cargo capsule from the Gulf of Mexico in darkness.

Infrared cameras tracked the 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, which was also visible in the infrared.

Apollo 8 - NASA's first flight to the moon with astronauts - ended with a predawn splashdown in the Pacific near Hawaii on Dec. 27, 1968.

Pictured: The SpaceX Dragon capsule floats after landing in the Gulf of Mexico

The capsule is retrieved from the Gulf of Mexico near the Florida panhandle after landing

A recovery team opening the hatch of the SpaceX's Crew Dragon Resilience capsule, aboard the Go Navigator recovery boat after it splashed down carrying astronauts returning to Earth

A crew member from the SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft exiting the capsule after its return to Earth, after splashdown off the coast of Panama City in the US state of Florida this morning

Pictured: SpaceX astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi were heading back to Earth on Saturday night and the capsule landed this morning

Eight years later, a Soviet capsule with two cosmonauts ended up in a dark, partially frozen lake in Kazakhstan, blown off course in a blizzard.

That was it for nighttime crew splashdowns - until Sunday.

Despite the early hour, the Coast Guard was out 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 capsule, a safety risk.

Once aboard the SpaceX recovery ship, the astronauts planned to hop on a helicopter for the short flight to shore, then catch a plane straight to Houston for a reunion with their families.

Their capsule, Resilience, will head back to Cape Canaveral for refurbishment for SpaceX's first private crew mission in September.

The SpaceX capsule departs the International Space Station carrying four astronauts

Replacements for Hopkins' crew arrived a week ago aboard their own Dragon capsule

The space station docking mechanism will be removed, and a brand new domed window put in its place.

A tech billionaire has purchased the entire three-day flight, which will orbit 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the space station.

He'll fly with a pair of contest winners and a physician assistant from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, his designated charity for the mission.

SpaceX's next astronaut launch for NASA will follow in October.

NASA turned to private companies to service the space station, after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. SpaceX began supply runs in 2012 and, last May, launched its first crew, ending NASA's reliance on Russia for astronaut transport.

Boeing isn't expected to launch astronauts until early next year.

Pictured: Elon Musk's SpaceX has become NASA's favored commercial transportation partner

This photo combination provided by NASA shows from left, Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi

NASA´s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan´s Soichi Noguchi, headed home in the same Dragon capsule that delivered them to the space station last November. 

The Crew Dragon capsule undocked from the ISS as scheduled at 8:35pm ET. 

'Thanks for your hospitality,' Hopkins radioed as the capsule undocked 260 miles above Mali.

The capsule fired a series of short bursts with its thrusters to gently ease away from the ISS.

NASA livestream footage showed the Crew Dragon capsule moving off into the dark as it began its journey back to Earth, its rear engines lighting up in small flashes.

Astronauts Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi went to space last November as the crew on the first fully operational mission to the ISS aboard a vehicle made by Elon Musk's SpaceX, which has become NASA's favoured commercial transportation partner.

Prior to that, two American astronauts made a test mission to the ISS in May and stayed for two months.

That was the first launch to the ISS from US soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. It was also the first crewed mission run by a private company, as opposed to NASA.

Until then US astronauts had caught rides to the ISS aboard Russian spacecraft.

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Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

SpaceX Crew-1 NASA astronauts splash down in the Gulf of Mexico

The Washington Post 01 May, 2021 - 07:36pm

The astronauts — three Americans and one from Japan — had undocked from the station at 8:35 p.m. Saturday, flew through the atmosphere and then touched down in the Gulf of Mexico under four massive parachutes at about 2:57 a.m. ET Sunday.

The return mission appeared to go flawlessly from start to finish, with the autonomous SpaceX Dragon spacecraft firing its engines on schedule to slow it down enough to pull it out of orbit and into the atmosphere. Within an hour of splashdown, the capsule had been lifted aboard a recovery ship and the four astronauts had disembarked, to be flown first to Florida aboard a helicopter and then aboard a NASA plane to Houston.

“It really could not have been a more flawless journey home for Crew Dragon Resilience,” said NASA public affairs officer Leah Cheshier.

Once the crew splashed down, SpaceX mission control had some fun with the astronauts: “We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”

First out was NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, the commander of the mission. He waved his arms, like doing a little dance once he crawled out of the capsule. Next out were NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, who were followed by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

The crews will head back to Houston to be reunited with their families.

Before they popped out, Hopkins said he was grateful for the SpaceX team. “I want to say thank you for this amazing vehicle, Resilience,” he said. “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together. Finally, I would just like to say, quite frankly, y’all are changing the world. Congratulations. It’s great to be back.”

Safety personnel will check to make sure there are no fuel leaks, and if the conditions are safe, the astronauts will exit the vehicle to be checked out by doctors on board the ship.

But Boeing is also working to fly crews to the space station — although it has had problems with its Starliner spacecraft.

Boeing flew a test mission with astronauts in December 2019. But the spacecraft had software problems that forced controllers on the ground to bring it down prematurely. It never docked with the station — one of the main objectives of the test flight. And the company decided to do the test flight over again.

Solving the software problems took a long time, however, and the company has still not returned to the skies. It has recently said that the spacecraft will be ready to fly as early as this month but that scheduling on the space station and the availability of the rocket that propels it from Earth will mean its flight can’t take place until August or September.

Still, it said it would continue to “evaluate options if an earlier launch opportunity becomes available.”

If that flight is successful, Boeing would look to flying its first test flight with NASA astronauts onboard.

The return mission appeared to go flawlessly from start to finish, as the autonomous SpaceX Dragon spacecraft fired it engines to slow down enough to pull it out of orbit an into the atmosphere.

“It really could not have been a more flawless journey home for Crew Dragon Resilience,” said NASA public affairs officer Leah Cheshier.

Once the crew splashed down, SpaceX mission control had some fun with the astronauts: “We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”

Speed boats on site are now speeding to the capsule to secure it and eventually hoist it on to the deck of the recovery ship, where doctors will tend to the crew and make sure they are okay. They would then fly by helicopter to shore where a plane is waiting to take them home to Houston.

The parachutes are one of the last major milestones to the landing, which so far has appeared to go flawlessly.

“We will see you on the other side,” ground controllers told the astronauts.

In September, SpaceX plans to launch the first all-civilian crew in a mission that would orbit Earth for a few days before coming back. Called Inspiration4, the mission is being funded by billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and is raising money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

That mission would fly on the same spacecraft, dubbed Resilience, that the Crew-1 astronauts are flying home now.

In a briefing with reporters while on the space station, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins said he thought the mission is “a good thing for human spaceflight.” By allowing the private sector to focus on low Earth orbit, “then NASA can continue to focus on exploration and getting back to the moon and onto Mars through the Artemis program,” he said.

The Crew-1 astronauts have not yet had the chance to speak with the members of the Inspiration4 mission. But he said they “would love to have that opportunity and kind of talk to them about what it’s like inside Resilience going uphill. And we’ll be able to tell them soon what it’s like coming home as well.”

SpaceX is also working toward the next flight of professional astronauts, Crew-3, which is scheduled for late October.

Finally, it’s planning to fly another private astronaut mission as early as January. That flight is being organized by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company that is also developing a commercial space station. The flight is led by former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who would be joined by three wealthy individuals, each of whom are spending $55 million for the trip.

The crew plans to spend about a week on the space station before coming home.

The next major milestone will be the deployment of the drogue parachutes, which would slow and stabilize the spacecraft, then the four main chutes will deploy, bringing the the spacecraft to a landing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The burn will put the spacecraft in a position to precisely land in the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Panama City. Meanwhile, the recovery ship has moved into place, getting ready to pick up the capsule.

In December, he became the first-ever U.S. Space Force officer assigned as an astronaut when he transferred from the Air Force while aboard the International Space Station.

Shannon Walker began her career at NASA in 1987 as a robotics flight controller for the space shuttle program. She was selected for the astronaut corps in 2004. She flew to the space station on the Russian Soyuz in 2010. She is married to fellow NASA astronaut Andy Thomas.

Victor Glover is the rookie of the group. He had never flown to space before this mission. A Navy commander, he is a test pilot who has flown the F/A 18 Hornet. He has four daughters and became the first African American astronaut ever to live aboard the space station.

Soichi Noguchi is a veteran Japanese astronaut who has flown on the space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz in addition to Crew Dragon. While onboard the station this time, he took a lot of stunning photographs of Earth that he posted to his Twitter account, including one of the Pyramids.

But coming home and adjusting to gravity can be rough. Returning astronauts sometimes have a difficult time staying upright after landing, while their bodies, and minds, get used to the pull of gravity again.

In an interview with The Post a couple of years ago, former NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus said it was one of the most difficult transitions.

“Gravity sucks. It’s horrible,” she said. “We adapt to this whole new environment . . . and then we come back and it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh. What the heck is this? I can’t believe we live in this all the time.’ I mean it’s just horrid. It’s this huge force that’s just pressing down on us every day.”

Mike Massimino, another former NASA astronaut, recalled how in space he would just let go of items instead of putting them down because they’d just float there next to him. On Earth, of course, they’d just come crashing down. And many astronauts, home just a day or two from space, have let coffee cups go, thinking they would just remain floating next to them, only to have them fall and shatter on the ground.

“It was probably my third day back, and I was taking groceries out of the minivan, and I wasn’t sure where to put them,” he said. “I had all these plastic bags from Kroger’s and I had to get them out of the car and into the house. So I thought, why don’t I just float this one here? And I just dropped it, thinking it was going to float.”

Since then, they have doubled that record, staying onboard the International Space Station for 168 days.

The record set by the Skylab crew “is really pretty significant when you think about how long it stood,” NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins recently told reporters in a briefing from the space station. “I don’t anticipate that our record is going to last that long. And that’s a good thing.”

High winds that kick up the seas and create big waves can create a dangerous situation, not just for the astronauts in the spacecraft but for the recovery teams as well. But on Sunday, the winds are expected to be very light and the sea as smooth as glass, creating “very benign waves,” Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, said during a broadcast of the return.

The darkness also shouldn’t be a problem, officials said.

“The vehicle is certified to land in day or night," Stich said. "There’s really not an issue with the vehicle itself and the recovery. We have been practicing recovering the crews in day or night.”

The skies would be generally clear, he said, so “we’ll have quite a bit of moonlight.” And the recovery ships are outfitted with lights as well, he said.

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