SpaceX’s first operational mission (Crew-1) under NASA Commercial Crew Program will come to an end this weekend. After working six months at the International Space Station (ISS) Crew-1 NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft. They are scheduled to depart the Space Station tonight, Saturday, May 1st. The quartet will ride the spacecraft and close the hatch at 6:20 p.m. EDT to initiate their return sequence. “Mission managers have decided to send Crew Dragon Resilience and its four astronauts back to Earth on Sunday. Resilience will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter during an automated maneuver on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. EDT,” the agency announced in a press release.
🌎 @Astro_illini, @AstroVicGlover, Shannon Walker and @Astro_Soichi are preparing to return to Earth! Crew Dragon Resilience is scheduled to undock from the @Space_Station tonight at 8:35pm ET.— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) May 1, 2021
🐉 Tune in starting at 6pm ET for live coverage on @NASA TV: https://t.co/A9sbAYbCl3 pic.twitter.com/B2NmUyQLbS
Resilience operates autonomously as SpaceX’s Mission Control monitors operations. “A series of departure burns will move Dragon away from the orbiting laboratory, followed by the vehicle jettisoning the trunk to reduce weight and mass to help save propellant for the deorbit burn,” SpaceX said, “Once complete, Dragon will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and deploy its two drogue and four main parachutes in preparation for a soft water landing.” They will perform a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida around 6-hours later on May 2 at 2:57 a.m. EDT. It will be the first time SpaceX and NASA return astronauts at night time. “Upon splashdown, the Dragon and the astronauts will be quickly recovered and returned to Cape Canaveral and Houston respectively. Once the mission is complete, Dragon will be inspected and refurbished for future human spaceflight missions,” SpaceX stated.
“This will be the first night splashdown of a U.S. crewed spacecraft since Apollo 8's predawn return in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 27, 1968, with NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders,” NASA officials said. Apollo 8 was the agency’s first crewed mission to orbit the moon. SpaceX and NASA recovery teams will navigate the ocean aboard ships to pickup the astronauts as soon as possible and recover the spacecraft that will be carrying important science cargo. Crew-1 astronauts are currently preparing to return. “Resilience Commander Michael Hopkins and Pilot Victor Glover are finishing packing up personal items and emergency hardware inside Resilience today,” NASA shared, “They were assisted by Crew-1 Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi who also loaded science freezers filled with research samples inside the Crew Dragon. When the Crew-1 astronauts land they will have spent 168 days in space since launching to the station on Nov. 15 last year.” Crew-1 astronauts conducted hundreds of scientific experiments at the orbiting laboratory, some of the research they did in microgravity will return to Earth. NASA will provide continuous broadcast of Crew-1’s return Live starting at 6:00 p.m. EDT today in the video linked below.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.