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SpaceX's Crew-1 make night splashdown after record-setting mission

May 2, 2021

— Making a rare nighttime splashdown, four history-making astronauts have returned from the International Space Station aboard a record-setting U.S. spacecraft.

Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) landed in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida, on Sunday (May 2). The SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts splashed down on Crew Dragon "Resilience" after 167 days in orbit, arriving home one day shy of doubling the 84-day U.S. record set by the third crewed mission to the Skylab orbital workshop in 1974.

"You talk about setting records, and the record they set is really pretty significant, particularly when you think about how long it stood," said Hopkins, commander of Crew-1, in response to a question asked by collectSPACE during a pre-landing press conference from the space station. "I don't anticipate that our record is going to stand that long and that's a good thing."

"It was great to break that record, but I think for all of us, it was more of a privilege to get to share that moment with those who had really broken ground. Really, we are standing on their shoulders today," he said.

The astronauts' return to Earth began at 8:35 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0035 GMT May 2) with the undocking of Resilience from the space-facing port on the space station's Harmony node.

Only the second U.S. splashdown since the end of the Apollo program in 1975, the Crew-1 astronauts' landing at 2:56 a.m. EDT (0656 GMT) on Sunday was the third nighttime landing by a crewed capsule in history. The splashdown in the dark, the result of rescheduling after several weather delays, followed the unplanned landing in a lake by Russia's Soyuz 23 in 1976 and Apollo 8's predawn return with the first astronauts to fly to the moon in 1968.

"Dragon, on behalf of NASA and SpaceX teams, we welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier program, you have earned 68 million miles on this voyage," radioed a SpaceX Crew Operations and Resources Engineer (CORE) from the company's mission control in Hawthorne, California.

"SpaceX, Resilience, it is good to be back on planet Earth. And we'll take those miles. Are they transferrable?" replied Hopkins with a laugh.

"And Dragon, we'll have to refer to you to marketing department for that policy," replied SpaceX.

Launched on Nov. 15, 2020, Crew-1 was SpaceX's first operational mission and second to fly astronauts to and from the space station. It was the first flight for Resilience, the first U.S. capsule to fly with four crew members, and the first U.S. commercial crew mission to include an international partner's astronaut.

Hopkins was the first U.S. mission commander to not be a military-trained pilot. A flight test engineer in the U.S. Air Force, Hopkins became the first astronaut to transfer into the newly-formed U.S. Space Force during a swearing in ceremony held while he was aboard the space station.

Glover, who was pilot aboard Resilience, was the first Black astronaut to serve on a space station expedition crew.

"It's a great thing to be here in space and be a part of this historic mission in so many ways," Glover said before leaving the station. "What I think it says is the agency [NASA] is doing what it can to continue to explore space safely, but also do it inclusively in a way that represents the best and brightest of America."

Walker was the first woman to fly on a commercial crew spacecraft. She also became the first native Houstonian to command the International Space Station when she took the lead for the Expedition 65 crew on April 15. She handed over command to Crew-2 astronaut Aki Hoshide of JAXA before departing for Earth.

Other than being the first international partner astronaut and first crew member from Japan to fly on Crew Dragon, Noguchi set a Guinness World Record for the longest time between spacewalks. His extravehicular activity (EVA) on March 5 came 15 years and 214 days after his prior spacewalk in 2005.

As members of the station's Expedition 64 and Expedition 65 crews, the Crew-1 astronauts helped conduct hundreds of experiments and they brought the time-sensitive results of some of that research back with them aboard Resilience. In addition to Noguchi, Hopkins and Glover also performed spacewalks to complete battery upgrades and connect power and data to a new science platform to the outside the European Columbus module.

Crew-1 was Noguchi's third spaceflight, Hopkins' and Walker's second and Glover's first. Noguchi now has spent a total of 344 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes in space. Hopkins has logged 333 days, 12 hours and 54 minutes. Walker has totaled 330 days, 13 hours and 40 minutes. Glover has 167 days, 6 hours and 29 minutes.

Crew Dragon Resilience will add to its time in space on its next mission launching the privately-funded Inspiration4 crew on a multi-day Earth orbit mission targeted for September.

 


SpaceX's Crew Dragon "Resilience" splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Panama City, Florida, with astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA aboard, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (NASA TV)




NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, left, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, right, are seen in the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience on the GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after landing in the Gulf of Mexico, May 2, 2021. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)




Support teams work around the Crew Dragon Resilience soon after it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)



Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience shortly after it splashed down with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, May 2, 2021. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)



The SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience is lifted onto the GO Navigator recovery ship with the Crew-1 astronauts still on board. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)



Crew-1 commander Mike Hopkins reacts to being back on Earth after being helped out of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience on board the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship after splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)



Crew-1 pilot Victor Glover is helped out of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience on board the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)



Crew-1 mission specialist Shannon Walker is seen on the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship after splashing down on Resilience. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)



JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, Crew-1 mission specialist, waves after being helped out of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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