The first mission of SpaceX’s newest Dragon crew capsule could hardly have gone better.
spacecraft, named freedomflew SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA, which concluded Friday afternoon (Oct. 14) with a splashdown in the atlantic ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.
Freedom’s return to Earth went like clockwork, as did almost the entire mission, NASA and SpaceX representatives said.
related: Incredible photos from SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission
“From my perspective, looking at the data from the vehicle over those five and a half months was delightfully boring, while the crew got to do all the exciting work aboard the ISS,” said Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX. Continue mission management said during a post-splashdown news conference Friday night.
“That’s exactly how we like it,” added Walker. “The Freedom vehicle performed wonderfully all the time, and especially today on its return day.”
Crew-4 took off on a SpaceX falcon 9 rocket on April 27, carrying NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency to the orbiting laboratory.
Freedom arrived at the ISS that same day and its crew quickly got to work. Crew 4 astronauts completed “more than 250 investigations in areas of human research technology demonstrations that we will need for exploration, in addition to completing some of our marketing activities in low earth orbit”, said Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s ISS program, during the press conference on Friday night.
The spacefarers’ ride back to Earth on Friday was also notable, and not just for its smoothness: Freedom splashed down less than five hours after undocking from the ISS.
“This was actually the fastest return we’ve ever done on a crew mission, on any mission, to date,” Walker said.
SpaceX still has a mission on the ISS, and will have one for a while; the one with four people Crew-5 arrived on October 1. 6 aboard the Dragon Endurance, which also flew on the company’s Crew-3 mission.
Like Crew-5, Crew-6 will employ a veteran Dragon Pod. That next mission, scheduled to launch next spring, will fly on the Endeavor spacecraft, Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said during Friday’s briefing.
Endeavor flew SpaceX’s first astronaut mission, the Demonstration-2 flight to the ISS in 2020, as well as Crew-2 and Axiom SpaceX’s Ax-1 flight. The 17 days of duration Ax-1which took place in April this year, was the first fully private crewed mission to the space station.
Mike Wall is the author of “out there (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; Illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @migueldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedot.com (opens in a new tab) or in Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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