Mission successful. SpaceX’s Resilience spacecraft brought four astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS) back to Earth on Sunday, May 2, after more than 160 days in space. Their capsule landed in the dead of night at 02:56 (06:56 GMT) in the Gulf of Mexico, off Panama City, Florida, after a six-and-a-half-hour flight from the ISS.
→ ANALYSIS. With SpaceX, America resumes its flight
The Go Navigator recovery vessel dropped the capsule on its deck half an hour later. The crew of the spacecraft, made up of three Americans and a Japanese, said they were in good health, according to NASA.
“It’s great to be back”
It was the first nocturnal return for NASA since the Apollo 8 crew landed in the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968. “We trained to recover the crews day and night”, explained Steve Stich, head of NASA’s commercial flights program, shortly before the capsule’s departure. “Boats have a lot of lighting” and we will have “The light of the moon”, he had said.
Commander Michael Hopkins was the first to emerge after the hatch was opened, taking a small dance step as he stepped onto the deck of the Go Navigator, followed by his compatriot Victor Glover. “On behalf of the Crew-1 crew and our families, we just want to say thank you (…) It’s great to be back ”, he said, according to a tweet from NASA.
“On behalf of Crew-1 and our families, we just want to say thank you … It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together. Y’all are changing the world. Congratulations. It’s great to be back. ” – NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) pic.twitter.com/6Bxpwp79ly
– NASA (@NASA) May 2, 2021
American Shannon Walker and Japanese Soichi Noguchi were also in the capsule. “Welcome home, Victor, Michael, Shannon and Soichi, and congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams who worked hard to ensure a safe and successful landing.”said new NASA administrator Bill Nelson hailing “Another incredible space flight for America and its business and international partners”.
114.6 million kilometers traveled
The four astronauts were transported to the ISS in November by Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX, which has become NASA’s main business partner. They traveled 114.6 million kilometers during their 168 days in orbit (including 167 days in the ISS), NASA calculated.
They must now undergo medical checks, then be transported by helicopter to Pensacola (Florida) from where they will take a plane to Houston (Texas) to find their relatives. “Our four crew members are in great shape and in excellent spirits and are doing very well”NASA Flight Director Holly Ridings said at a press conference. “ It’s not often that you have the opportunity to wake up on the space station and go to bed in Houston ”.
Seven astronauts are still on board the ISS. The departure of this crew, Crew-1, follows the arrival on board the ISS last week of a second regular mission carried by the American company (Crew-2), of four people, including the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.