Four astronauts splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday, completing NASA’s first commercial crew, long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The return comes nearly six months after the crew members arrived at the microgravity laboratory and also marks the longest-duration mission of a crewed American spacecraft to date.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, carrying NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 2:56 a.m. EDT off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Crews aboard SpaceX recovery vessels successfully recovered the spacecraft and astronauts. After returning to shore, the astronauts will fly back to Houston.
“Welcome home Victor, Michael, Shannon, and Soichi, and congratulations to the teams at NASA and SpaceX who worked so hard to ensure their safe and successful splashdown,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, who was confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA Administrator on April 29. “We’ve accomplished another incredible spaceflight for America and our commercial and international partners. Safe, reliable transportation to the International Space Station is exactly the vision that NASA had when the agency embarked on the commercial crew program.”
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission launched Nov. 15, 2020, on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens and highlighting the dedication displayed by the teams involved with the mission and demonstrating that there is no limit to what humans can achieve when they work together. Crew Dragon Resilience docked to the Harmony module’s forward port of the space station Nov. 16, nearly 27 hours after liftoff.
Overall, Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi traveled 71,242,199 statute miles during their 168 days in orbit (with 167 days aboard the space station), completing 2,688 orbits around Earth. With splashdown, the crew also broke the American crewed spacecraft mission duration record of 84 days, 1 hour, 15 minutes, set by the final Skylab crew in February 1974.
Crew-1 also is 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.
Throughout their mission, the Crew-1 astronauts contributed to scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, in addition to spacewalks and public engagement events, while aboard the orbiting laboratory. From studying protein crystal development to advance new drug discoveries, to demonstrating robotic assistant technologies, their work advances exploration of the universe while bringing benefits back to Earth.
They also grew crops in both the Advanced Plant Habitat and Veggie plant growth facilities, and conducted tests of a new method for producing semiconductor crystals. The astronauts contributed hundreds of pictures of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which contributes to tracking of natural disasters and changes to our home planet. The crew also tested a new tape dispenser, designed and produced by students as part of the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH), during the mission.