A SpaceX crew capsule will return four astronauts to Earth in the first nighttime splashdown for NASA since 1968 and you can watch it all live online, starting with a farewell from the International Space Station tonight (May 1).
SpaceX’s Crew-1 Dragon spacecraft, called Resilience, is scheduled to undock from the space station at 8:35 p.m. EDT (0035 GMT) after delays due to bad weather at its splashdown site on Earth. The spacecraft will return NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi home after six months in space.
You can watch SpaceX’s Crew-1 Dragon undocking here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. NASA’s livestream will begin at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) and will continue until splashdown, which is scheduled for Sunday at 2:57 a.m. EDT (0657 GMT).
“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 in an update. The Apollo 8 mission was NASA’s first crewed mission to orbit the moon.
SpaceX has trained extensively to retrieve a Crew Dragon capsule at night. In January, the company made swift work in recovering an uncrewed Dragon cargo capsule at night, NASA spokesperson Rob Navias told Space.com.
Live updates: SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronaut mission to the space station
Crew-1 is SpaceX’s first operational astronaut flight for NASA and launched on Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida and arrived at the station a day later. It is SpaceX’s second crewed flight after the Demo-2 test flight by two NASA astronauts that launched in May 2020. SpaceX has since launched a third astronaut mission, Crew-2, which reached the space station last week.
It will take about 6.5 hours for the Crew-1 Dragon capsule to return to Earth. The hatches between the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the International Space Station will be closed at 6:20 p.m. EDT (2220 GMT) with undocking to occur just over two hours later.
SpaceX will have recovery ships waiting in the Gulf of Mexico in order to reach the Resilience capsule within an hour of splashdown. NASA plans to hold a post-splashdown press conference at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) to discuss Crew-1’s return. In addition to its astronaut crew, Resilience is carrying sensitive science results that will need to be retrieved swiftly.
After six months in space, the Crew-1 astronauts have said they’re ready to come home.
“Now that we’re going home, it’s exciting because we don’t know quite what to expect, landing on the water under parachutes like this, and it’s just exciting that we get to go home and see our friends and family,” Walker told reporters on Monday (April 26).
Crew-1 is the first of six astronaut flights for NASA by SpaceX as part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX is one of two companies with multibillion contracts to fly astronauts in space for NASA, but is the first company to do so. The other company, Boeing, is preparing to fly a second uncrewed test flight of its Starliner capsule later this year.
Visit Space.com tonight for coverage of SpaceX’s Crew-1 splashdown for NASA.
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