Mission Crew-1 accomplished: the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft has come back to Earth

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft on the Go Navigator ship (Image NASA TV)
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft on the Go Navigator ship (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft ended its Crew-1, or SpaceX Crew-1, mission on behalf of NASA by splashing down without problems. Onboard were astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, who finished SpaceX’s first regular crewed mission in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Panama City, Florida. The Crew Dragon left the International Space Station about 6.5 hours earlier. Shortly after splashing down, the SpaceX ship called “Go Navigator” went to retrieve the Crew Dragon and its crew to transport them to the coast.

The astronauts of the Crew-1 mission reached the International Space Station on November 17, 2020, and were part of Expedition 64 and 65 in the crew rotation. On Thursday, April 27, Shannon Walker officially handed over the command of the International Space Station to the Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Normally, this rotation, with the subsequent return to Earth of some crew members, marks the beginning of a new Expedition, but now there’s an unusual rotation due to the start of the SpaceX missions that led to having 11 crew members for a few days. For this reason, Akihiko Hoshide is the second Station commander for Expedition 65, which will continue until October 2021.

The changes in the Station crew rotation will likely never return to the pace they had when they were using only Russian Soyuz spacecraft. While waiting for Boeing to conduct the test of its Starliner spacecraft, SpaceX has joined the Roscosmos space agency in crewed missions.

The Crew Dragon Resilience, the first private spacecraft to transport astronauts, also set the record for the longest space mission for an American spacecraft. The previous record belonged to the Apollo CSM-118, used for the Skylab 4 mission, with 84 days.

The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft will be examined, and the results will determine the chances of it being reused for another mission. The complete success of SpaceX’s first regular mission already represents a victory for NASA, which has financed the development of new American spacecraft for years, and for Elon Musk’s company.

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