Miami, May 1 (EFE).- SpaceX Dragon successfully separated from the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, with the four Crew-1 astronauts on board readying for NASA’s first nighttime splashdown in 53 years.
NASA’s Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover, as well as Soichi Noguch, from the Japanese Space Agency, are scheduled to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday at 2.57 am local time (06:57 GMT), possibly across from Panama City, northwest Florida.
According to NASA, if the weather conditions are not ideal, the second option will be off the coast of Tampa, Florida.
NASA has not performed a nighttime splashdown since 1968 when the Apollo 8 mission, the first to send astronauts around the moon, returned to Earth.
The US Coast Guard has reminded vessels to stay away from possible mission arrival areas while “recovery operations” are carried out, and asked sailors to consult radio broadcasts.
The Crew-1 mission, the first developed by NASA and the private firm SpaceX and which has lasted six months, arrived at the ISS on Nov. 15 after taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Prior to separation Saturday, Crew-1 members closed the Dragon hatch at 6.26 pm Eastern time (22:26 GMT), while the other astronauts inside the ISS closed the hatch of the so-called orbiting laboratory.
At 8.35 pm EST (00:35 GMT Sunday), exactly at the scheduled time, the capsule separated from the ISS, then booted up its thrusters and began its journey to Earth.
The return trip was postponed twice due to adverse weather conditions at the splashdown zones.
Crew-1 is the first of six manned missions that NASA will carry out in association with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Crew-1 concludes its work shortly after the second of these missions, Crew-2, reached the ISS on Apr. 24 aboard another Dragon capsule, called Endeavor, after taking off a day earlier from Cape Canaveral in a reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
This relief team, which will also spend six months in the orbiting laboratory, is made up of the American astronauts from NASA Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as the Japanese Akihiko Hoshide, from JAXA, and the Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, from the European Space Agency. EFE