Four astronauts complete aaboard the International Space Station, plan a return to Earth before dawn Sunday in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, splashing in the Gulf of Mexico south of Panama City, Florida. Their return was delayed by several days due to the windy weather.
This will be the second water landing of a Crew Dragon piloted spacecraft and only the third nighttime splashdown in space history, the first in nearly 45 years.
Bidding farewell to their seven station teammates, Dragon Crew Commander Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi plan to detach from the Harmony Module Upper Harbor at 8:35 p.m. EDT on Saturday. , starting a six and a half. back-to-school sequence.
If all goes well, Hopkins and Glover will monitor a 16-minute automated firing of the spacecraft’s brake thrusters starting at 2:03 a.m. Sunday to lower the far side of their orbit deep into the atmosphere to target the landing zone. forecast from the Gulf of Mexico.
Protected by an advanced heat shield, the Crew Dragon is expected to dive into the lower atmosphere, deploy its four main parachutes, and settle into a relatively gentle dive at 2:57 am.
contrary toLast August, when pleasure craft circled the Crew Dragon that brought Douglas Hurley and Robert Behken home from the space station, the Coast Guard plans to patrol a 10-mile-wide safety zone to keep spectators away. early in the morning.
SpaceX recovery teams will be stationed nearby to fire the capsule aboard a support ship and help the crew exit the spacecraft as they have started to readjust to gravity. After medical checks, the astronauts will be transported to land by helicopter and transferred to a NASA jet for a flight back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Hopkins and companyto land on Wednesday, but bad weather prompted SpaceX and NASA to delay undocking to Friday and then Saturday due to higher winds than allowed in the landing zone.
“Crew Dragon is in excellent health on the space station, and teams are now anticipating ideal conditions for splashing and recovering over the weekend,” NASA said in a statement.
This will be the second splashdown for astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first night landing since two cosmonauts aboard the Soyuz 23 spacecraft fell into a lake in Kazakhstan during a snowstorm in 1976.
The only other nocturnal splashdown was in 1968 when the Apollo 8 crew, returning from a Christmas trip around the moon, made a planned pre-dawn landing in the Pacific Ocean.