SpaceX Four astronauts were safely repatriated Sunday from the International Space Station, the first U.S. crew to plunge into darkness after the Apollo 8 moonlight.
It was an express trip home 6 1/2 hours.
The astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, flew back in the same capsule – labeled Recession – in which they were launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in November.
“We welcome you back to Earth, thank you for flying SpaceX” was broadcast on the radio a few minutes after SpaceX’s Mission Control. “For those of you who have signed up for our Continuous Flyer Plan, you have earned 68 million miles on this trip.”
“We’ll take those miles,” spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins said. “Are they convertible?” SpaceX responded that the astronauts should check with the company’s marketing department.
Within half an hour of Splash Down, the burnt capsule – resembling a giant roasted marshmallow – was loaded onto the rescue ship, and the astronauts quickly left. NASA and SpaceX managers were amazed at how quickly and smoothly the move went. Hans Kனnigsman, a senior consultant at the company, said: “It looks more like a race car pit park than anything else.
Hopkins was out first, and he did a little dancing when he came out under the intense spotlights.
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He told SpaceX flight controllers at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, “It’s amazing what people can do when they get together.” “Very frankly, you all change the world. Congratulations. It’s so good to be back.”
The 167-day mission is too long for a team capsule to launch from the United States. The previous record of 84 days was set in 1974 by astronauts at NASA’s final Skylop station.
The opening on Saturday night left seven people on board at the space station, four of whom arrived via SpaceX a week ago.
“To Earth!” The capsule’s pilot NASA astronaut Victor Clover tweeted after taking off from the station. “One step closer to family and home!”
Hopkins and Clover – along with NASA’s Shannon Walker and Japan’s Sochi Nokuchi – should have returned to Earth last Wednesday, but high sea air forced SpaceX to cross a pair of daytime landing attempts. In favor of calm weather, executives moved to a rare splashtown in the dark.
SpaceX trained for an overnight arrival, retrieving its most recent station cargo capsule from the Gulf of Mexico in the dark. Infrared cameras monitored the astronauts’ capsules as they re-entered the atmosphere; It resembled a bright star in the night sky.
All four major parachutes can be seen being used shortly before Splastown, which is also visible in infrared.
Apollo 8 – NASA’s first spacecraft with astronauts – crashes on December 27, 1968 in the Pacific near Hawaii. Eight years later, a Soviet capsule with two astronauts ended up in a dark, somewhat frozen lake in Kazakhstan. , Blown of course in a blizzard.
That’s for the nightclub crew’s Splastowns – until Sunday.
Despite the early morning, the Coast Guard was at full strength to enforce the 11-mile (18-kilometer) holding zone. With the return of the first crew of SpaceX in August, the pleasure boats have taken the capsule as a safety hazard. Leisure boats were away at this time.
Video SpaceX debris BC. Illuminates the sky
After completing their medical tests on the ship, the astronauts planned to board a short-haul helicopter to land, and then catch a flight straight to Houston to reunite with their families.
“You often don’t get up at the space station and go to sleep in Houston,” Chief Aviation Director Holy Readings told reporters.
The astronauts capsule, setback, will return to Cape Canaveral in September for an update on SpaceX’s first private crew mission. The space station docking mechanism will be removed and a new dome window will be placed in its place.
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A tech millionaire has bought a three-day plane that will orbit 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the space station. He will fly with a pair of competition winners and a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
SpaceX’s next astronaut for NASA will continue in October.
After the Navy retired in 2011, NASA returned to private companies to serve on the space station. SpaceX began supply runs in 2012, launching its first crew last May, ending NASA’s reliance on Russia for space transport.
Boeing is not expected to launch astronauts early next year.
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