The SpaceX crew capsule made a successful return journey from the ISS on Sunday. The “perfect” splashdown was the first to be carried out a night since the Apollo 8 space missions. The astronaut crew of four landed in the Gulf of Mexico right on schedule and were picked up with the aid of military spotter aircraft and a support ship specially designed for the task by Elon Musk‘s space exploration company.
Aerospace expert Frederic Castel told France 24: “It has been a perfect splashdown and return to Earth.
“They have very early pictures of the capsule in the middle of the night with a special infrared camera from a military aircraft.
“The capsule landed exactly on time in the Gulf of Mexico in the northern part of Florida.
“Where the weather was absolutely perfect, no waves it looked like a lake or a swimming pool.
“So it was much easier for the recovery team to get to the capsule and to bring the capsule onboard the special boat of SpaceX.
“Right now the astronauts are coming out of the capsule after almost six months in orbit.”
The four astronauts made up Crew-1, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker from NASA, and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi.
In total, the trip took the departing crew just seven hours from leaving the space station.
NASA announced the splashdown with a statement which read: “Astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) splashed down safely in the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, at 2:56 a.m. EDT after 168 days in space.
“The return marks the end of the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station of the Crew Dragon spacecraft developed in partnership between NASA and SpaceX as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
“Teams on the Go Navigator recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing Crew Dragon and ensuring the spacecraft is safe for the recovery effort.
“As the fast boat teams complete their work, the recovery ship will move into position to hoist Crew Dragon onto the main deck of Go Navigator with the astronauts inside.
“Once on the main deck, the crew will be taken out of the spacecraft and receive medical checks before a helicopter ride to Pensacola to board a plane for Houston.”
Meanwhile, SpaceX tweeted: “Splashdown of Dragon confirmed – welcome back to Earth.”
Crew member Hopkins thanked Nasa and Space X for their work saying: “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together.
“I’d like to say quite frankly you are changing the world. It is great to be back.”