Crew-1 Is Home — “You All Are Changing the World”

Crew-1 Is Home — “You All Are Changing the World”

The first operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:56 am ET this morning after 168 days in space. It was the first nighttime splashdown since 1968, and the second Crew Dragon landing in the Gulf.

Crew Dragon “Resilience” returned to Earth with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi after five-and-a-half months at International Space Station (ISS).

Their return was delayed three days and moved from the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, FL to the Gulf of Mexico south of Panama City, FL due to weather, but it was picture perfect this morning with winds at 3 knots and waves less than one foot.

Two SpaceX “fast boats” quickly reached the spacecraft and a rigger climbed aboard to prepare it to be lifted aboard SpaceX’s recovery vessel GO Navigator.

Crew-1 capsule floating in the Gulf of Mexico with a SpaceX “rigger” climbing aboard to prepare it for hoisting onto the recovery ship. May 2, 2021. Screengrab.


Crew-1 capsule being hoisted aboard the recovery ship GO Navigator in the Gulf of Mexico, May 2, 2021. Screengrab.


Crew-1 crew aboard the recovery ship GO Navigator, May 2, 2021. L-R: Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Soichi Noguchi. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions all splashed down in the ocean, but the space shuttle landed on runways like an airplane, so it has been almost five decades since water landings were the norm.  This was the first nighttime water landing since Apollo 8 in 1968.

SpaceX chose to design Crew Dragon to splash down in the ocean. Boeing’s Starliner, the other “commercial crew” system, lands on land like Russia’s Soyuz.

Starliner is still in the testing phase. Crew Dragon is operational.

Resilience is one of two Crew Dragons that SpaceX has built already. The other, Endeavour, made its first flight last year for the Demo-2 demonstration mission flown by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The spacecraft are reusable and Endeavour just launched a second time taking a four-person crew to ISS. For about a week, both were docked to the ISS simultaneously.  SpaceX is now building a third.

Crew Dragon restored America’s ability to launch people into space. After the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011, NASA had to rely on Russia to ferry crews back and forth to ISS.

NASA procured Crew Dragon and Starliner through Public-Private Partnerships where the companies retain ownership of the vehicles and can offer services to other customers. SpaceX already has two deals to launch private astronauts on Crew Dragons in coming months — Inspiration4 in September and Ax-1 in January.

Crew Dragon is getting rave reviews from those who have flown on it so far. This morning, Resilience Commander Hopkins thanked SpaceX and said “you all are changing the world.” He clearly was happy to be home, doing a little dance after getting out of the spacecraft.

This flight broke the record for the longest time a U.S. spacecraft has spent in orbit. At 168 days, it is exactly twice the duration of the final Skylab mission in 1974.  Skylab was the first U.S. space station, but it was not designed for permanent occupancy like the ISS.  Apollo spacecraft delivered crews to Skylab for missions that lasted 28 days, 59 days and 84 days respectively, durations that were quite remarkable at the time.

U.S. astronauts have spent much more time in space since then, but travelling on Russian spacecraft. Scott Kelly holds the U.S. record for longest continuous spaceflight, 340 days, though Christina Koch is close behind at 328 days. The world record is held by Russia’s Valeri Polyakov at 438 days.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.