The Crew-1 , the first commercial manned mission developed by NASA in conjunction with SpaceX, concluded Sunday stay at the International Space (EEI) station upon return to the Land of the Dragon capsule with four astronauts on the mission to board.
At 2.56 am today (6.56 GMT), the Resilience capsule safely reached the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, near Panama City, in northwestern Florida (USA), thus completing its six-month mission. on the ISS.
It was also the first return made in the dark at dawn since 1968, when the Apollo 8 mission did the same, the first to send astronauts around the moon.
"Welcome home Victor, Michael, Shannon and Soichi," said former Senator Bill Nelson, who on Thursday was confirmed by the Senate as the new administrator of the US aerospace agency.
"Safe and reliable transportation to the International Space Station is exactly the vision NASA envisioned when the agency embarked on the commercial crew program," added Nelson.
NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover, as well as their colleague Soichi Noguch of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), members of the Crew-1 mission, returned home after a six-and-a-half hour drive.
Prior to that, last night, the autonomous separation process of the capsule built by the private firm SpaceX of the Harmony module of the ISS, which faces space and not Earth, was successfully carried out.
Thus, the return trip finally began after being postponed twice due to the weather conditions forecast in the landing zones and showing "wind speeds above the return criteria".
The four astronauts departed Cape Canaveral in a SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rocket on November 15, 2020 and reached the orbital lab the next day, nearly 27 hours after taking off.
As reported by NASA, the members of this mission spent 167 days in the space station with which they completed 2,688 orbits around the Earth, and in that period of time they did several scientific investigations and technological tests, in addition to spacewalks.
The astronauts grew plants at the ISS facility and tested a new method for producing semiconductor crystals, among other experiments.
Crew-1 is the first of six manned missions that NASA will do in association with the signing of magnate Elon Musk, as part of the Commercial Crew Program with which the space agency returns to send missions into space from US soil and with rockets and ships manufactured in this country.
Crew-1 concludes its work and begins its return shortly after the second of these missions, Crew-2, reached the ISS on April 24 aboard another Dragon capsule, called Endeavor, after taking off a day earlier from Cape Canaveral (Florida) in a reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
This relief team, which will also spend six months in the orbital laboratory, is made up of the American astronauts from NASA Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide, from the JAXA agency, and the French Thomas Pesquet, from the European Space Agency (ESA).
After their arrival in the Atlantic, the four astronauts will go to the NASA base in Houston (Texas, USA).