CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX capsule carrying 4 astronauts departed the International Space Station late Saturday, aiming for a uncommon nighttime splashdown to finish the corporate’s second crew flight.
It can be the primary U.S. splashdown in darkness since Apollo 8′s crew returned from the moon in 1968.
NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, headed home in the identical Dragon capsule that delivered them to the house station final November. The journey again was anticipated to take simply 6 1/2 hours.
“Thanks on your hospitality,” Hopkins radioed because the capsule undocked 260 miles (420 kilometers) above Mali.
SpaceX focused a splashdown round 3 a.m. Sunday within the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Despite the early hour, the Coast Guard deployed additional patrols — and spotlights — to maintain any night-owl sightseers away. The capsule of the primary SpaceX crew was surrounded by pleasure boaters final summer time, posing a security danger.
Hopkins, the spacecraft commander, rocketed into orbit with his crew on Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Their replacements arrived per week in the past aboard their very own Dragon capsule — the identical one which launched SpaceX’s first crew final spring.
The 4 ought to have been again by now, however excessive offshore wind saved them on the house station just a few additional days. SpaceX and NASA decided the perfect climate can be earlier than daybreak.
The delays allowed Glover to have a good time his forty fifth birthday in house Friday.
“Gratitude, surprise, connection. I’m filled with and motivated by these emotions on my birthday, as my first mission to house involves an finish,” Glover tweeted.
Saturday night time’s undocking left seven astronauts on the house station: three Americans, two Russians, one Japanese and one French.