A SpaceX ship brought four astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS) back to Earth on Sunday after a 160-day space mission.
Their capsule landed at midnight at 02:56 (06:56 GMT), in the Gulf of Mexico, off Panama City, Florida, in the southeastern United States, after a six-and-a-half hour flight. From the International Space Station, according to infrared images broadcast by NASA’s research apparatus at high altitudes.
Boats were deployed to retrieve the capsule and the astronauts. The US space agency said the crew, consisting of three Americans and a Japanese, said they were in good health.
“We trained to retrieve crews day and night,” said Steve Stitch, NASA’s commercial aviation program director, who was interviewed shortly before leaving the capsule.
“The boats have a lot of lighting,” he said, and we’ll have “moonlight,” describing the excellent weather and calm seas.
The Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese Soishi Noguchi in November were the first astronauts on an “operational” mission to be transported to the International Space Station by the space company Elon Musk, which was imposed as a primary partner of NASA.
Seven astronauts remain on board the International Space Station.
“Thank you for your hospitality (…) We will meet again on Earth,” launched Michael Hopkins, to the address of the seven astronauts still on board the station at the time of farewell.
Two Americans actually made a round trip aboard the Dragon in 2020, during a two-month test mission aboard the station. It was the first flight to the International Space Station launched from the United States since the end of the space shuttles in 2011, and the first to be operated by a private company with astronauts on board.
This time it is the first regular mission brought back to Earth by SpaceX.
For the ultimate “start”, the astronauts are on board the same Dragon spacecraft, called “Resilience,” that took them into orbit, and which SpaceX then plans to reuse for other missions, after its revamp.
NASA said Dragon also carries “scientific freezers filled with research samples” that are carried out in zero gravity.
The departure of this Crew-1 crew comes after its arrival on the International Space Station last week on a second regular mission by the American company (Crew-2), which includes French astronaut Thomas Pisquet, who had the stick. It has been passed in the last days.
Shannon Walker handed command of the International Space Station to Astronaut Crew 2 on Tuesday in a symbolic ceremony. “I will cherish these moments forever,” she said on the occasion.
In total, Crew-1 will spend 168 days in space. “Time flies by, it has passed so fast,” Victor Glover said.
For his part, Michael Hopkins said: “We are all, as you can imagine, very excited about this landing on the water, for what will be allowed, ie, returning to our families.” “We are very happy with this mission. I think we are also very keen to return home.”
They were initially scheduled to leave the International Space Station on Wednesday, then Friday, but had to be postponed each time due to bad weather forecast in the landing area.
The US space agency said that NASA and SpaceX “are working closely with the US Coast Guard to create a 10 nautical mile safety zone around the planned landing site, to ensure the safety of the public” and those responsible for going. Astronaut retrieval. The current situation.
During the astronauts’ return from the test mission in August 2020, the pleasure boats approached very close to where the capsule would land and had to be removed.
In addition to the four Crew-2 astronauts, another American astronaut and Rusan, who arrived on board the Soyuz rocket, they remain on the International Space Station. Before leaving Crew-1, the space station was inhabited by at least 11 people.