On Sunday, May 2, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission quietly made history.
Crew-1 marked NASA’s first operational, long-duration commercial crew mission. The crew traveled in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, carried by a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station.
Late on May 1, the Crew-1 Dragon separated from the ISS to begin its return to Earth.
Crew-1’s departure was originally scheduled for a few days prior, but rough weather conditions back on Earth delayed its return.
Around 2 a.m. Eastern, the Dragon initiated deorbit burn, firing its engines to slow the capsule enough for it to begin its descent from orbit.
Crew-1’s early morning splashdown was as extraordinary as the mission itself.
Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images
The last pre-dawn splashdown of a crewed U.S. spacecraft was in 1968, with the return of Apollo 8.
After 168 days in space, NASA celebrated along with the Crew-1 astronauts, who soon departed for Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The end of Crew-1 is only the beginning for NASA’s commercial crew missions. Crew-2 docked with the ISS last week to continue the work started by Crew-1.
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NASA/Tony Gray and Kenny Allen