Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 60° Partly Cloudy
News >  Nation/World

SpaceX capsule departs station with 4 astronauts, heads home

UPDATED: Sat., May 1, 2021

By Marcia Dunn Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts departed the International Space Station late Saturday, aiming for a rare nighttime splashdown to end the company’s second crew flight.

It would be the first U.S. splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 crew returned from the moon in 1968.

NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, headed home in the same Dragon capsule that delivered them to the space station last November. The ride back was expected to take just 61/2 hours.

“Thanks for your hospitality,” Hopkins radioed as the capsule undocked 260 miles above Mali.

SpaceX targeted a splashdown around 3 a.m. Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Despite the early hour, the Coast Guard deployed extra patrols – and spotlights – to keep any night-owl sightseers away. The capsule of the first SpaceX crew was surrounded by pleasure boaters last summer, posing a safety risk.

Hopkins, the spacecraft commander, rocketed into orbit with his crew on Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Their replacements arrived a week ago aboard their own Dragon capsule – the same one that launched SpaceX’s first crew last spring.

The four should have been back by now, but high offshore wind kept them at the space station a few extra days. SpaceX and NASA determined the best weather would be before dawn.

The delays allowed Glover to celebrate his 45th birthday in space Friday.

“Gratitude, wonder, connection. I’m full of and motivated by these feelings on my birthday, as my first mission to space comes to an end,” Glover tweeted.

Saturday night’s undocking left seven astronauts at the space station: three Americans, two Russians, one Japanese and one French.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.