The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which carried four astronauts back to Earth, landed on the Florida coast at dawn on Sunday (2) after a 160-day mission in space.
The capsule landed at 3:56 a.m. Brazilian time in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City in the southeastern United States after a six and a half hour flight from the ISS (International Space Station).
The crews of the Go Navigator retrieved the capsule and lifted it almost half an hour later during NASA’s first night landing since the Apollo 8 crew in the Pacific on December 27, 1968.
Commander Michael Hopkins was the first to leave, followed shortly after by his American compatriot Victor Glover. They returned to earth with the American Shannon Walker and the Japanese Soichi Noguchi.
“On behalf of Crew-1 and our families, we just want to say thank you … It’s amazing what can be done when people come together. You’re changing the world. Congratulations. It’s great to be back,” said Hopkins a NASA tweet.
The four astronauts in November were the first on an operational mission. They were transported to the ISS by the space company Elon Musk, which has become an important partner of NASA.
Two other Americans traveled and returned aboard Dragon in 2020 during a two-month test mission at the station. It was the first flight to the ISS launched from the United States since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, and the first by a private company with astronauts on board.
This time it is the first regular mission that SpaceX will transport back to Earth.
For the final landing, the astronauts were on board the same kite spacecraft called Resilience that put them into orbit and that SpaceX plans to reuse for other missions after work to overhaul equipment.
Dragon also runs “scientific freezers of research samples in zero gravity,” NASA said.
The crew 1 crew returned after the arrival of the second regular mission, Crew 2, carried out by the American company, on board the ISS last week.
time goes by
On Tuesday (27), Shannon Walker handed over command of the ISS to an astronaut of Crew 2 in a symbolic ceremony.
Crew-1 stayed in space for 168 days. “Time passed by in a flash,” commented Victor Glover.
“We’re all very happy with the mission, but I think everyone is excited to get home,” said Hopkins.
The departure of the ISS team was scheduled for last Wednesday (28) and then moved to Friday (30), but the return was postponed in both cases due to poor weather conditions in the landing area.
NASA and SpaceX, in cooperation with the Coast Guard, have set up a safety zone of 10 nautical miles around the planned landing site.
When the two astronauts returned from the test mission in August 2020, the ships came too close to the location where the capsule arrived and had to be removed.
In addition to the four Crew 2 astronauts, another American astronaut and two Russians will remain on the ISS, who arrived at the station with a Soyuz rocket.