Crew-2 Home Safe and Sound

Crew-2 Home Safe and Sound

The second operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for NASA, Crew-2, splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico tonight. It is actually the fourth Crew Dragon splashdown carrying astronauts if a test flight and a privately sponsored mission are included. SpaceX has seven places off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic and the Gulf where Crew Dragon can return, but so far the Gulf is providing the more welcoming environment.

SpaceX has three Crew Dragon spacecraft, all of which can be used at least five times each. Tonight it was Endeavour bringing home NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet after 199 days in space.

Crew-2, L-R, before launch: Megan McArthur (NASA), Thomas Pesquet (ESA), Akihiko Hoshhide (JAXA), Shane Kimbrough (NASA). Photo credit: SpaceX

Splashdown was at 10:33 pm ET near Pensacola, FL. (Screengrabs from NASA TV, some taken with infrared cameras.)

Crew-2 after Endeavour was hoisted aboard the recovery vessel and the hatch opened (L-R): Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, Akihiko Hospide.

Endeavour took the first NASA-sponsored crew to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Demo-2 test flight last year. That was followed by the first operational flight for NASA, Crew-1, on the Resilience spacecraft. Endeavour took this crew to the ISS in April, while Resilience flew the private Inspiration4 crew in September.

A new Crew Dragon, Endurance, is sitting on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center waiting to take Crew-3 to the ISS. Scheduled for October 31, the launch has been postponed by weather and a minor medical issue with one of the crew members. NASA and SpaceX hope to launch it on Wednesday and at the moment the weather is 80 percent favorable.

In the meantime, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Russian colleagues, Anton Shklaperov and Pytor Dubrov, have the ISS to themselves. They are using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for transportation so are not part of the SpaceX Crew Dragon rotation.

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