Planet Talk

Nighttime Splashdown

This morning, NASA’s SpaceX Dragon made a successful splashdown, marking the end of SpaceX’s first long-duration mission! SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, named Resilience carried four astronauts coming from the International Space Station (ISS), after spending six months there. This splashdown back on Earth (in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Panama City, Florida) has significance because it was NASA’s first night landing since 1968. In 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 returned to Earth on a nighttime mission. Luckily, this morning’s long awaited return of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was a successful splashdown and Resilience arrived promptly before 3 a.m. PST. Taking off from the ISS takes several hours to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and this set the crew’s journey to be around 6.5 hours long. Fortunately, the four members of the crew landed safely and felt good to be home. This is an improvement from past missions aboard capsules in which the splashdown has caused astronauts extreme nausea and other side effects. Nighttime landings such as that completed today are often advantageous due to the lack of boats around while landing. Nevertheless, Coast Guards off the coast of Florida set up an 11.5-mile safety zone surrounding the splashdown site. Encouraged by this successful landing, NASA plans to pursue more space missions in the near future, possibly with more nighttime splashdowns!

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