SpaceX is set to perform the FIRST US astronaut crew splashdown in the dark since Apollo 8 when it brings Crew-2 back from the International Space Station at 3am ET Sunday

 SpaceX will attempt the first US splashdown of returning astronauts in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot in 1968.

The Elon Musk-owned company is targeting the predawn hours of Sunday to bring back three NASA astronauts and one from Japan, after dangerously high wind scuttled a pair of earlier attempts.

The astronauts - only the second crew to fly SpaceX - will depart the International Space Station (ISS) Saturday night aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule that carried them to the orbiting laboratory last November. 

Splashdown is scheduled for  six and a half hours later, around 3am ET in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida.


Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. SpaceX is targeting the predawn hours of Sunday, May 2, to bring back three NASA astronauts and one from Japan, after dangerously high wind scuttled a pair of earlier attempts

Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. SpaceX is targeting the predawn hours of Sunday, May 2, to bring back three NASA astronauts and one from Japan, after dangerously high wind scuttled a pair of earlier attempts

SpaceX brought back a station cargo capsule with a splashdown in darkness in January. 

The event added to NASA's confidence for a nighttime homecoming, said Rob Navias, a spokesman at Johnson Space Center in Houston.


'SpaceX has done numerous dress rehearsals and spent a lot of time with nighttime recoveries,' he said.

Navias said the time slot provided the best weather conditions in the coming days.

SpaceX this weekend will attempt the first US splashdown of returning astronauts in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot in 1968

SpaceX this weekend will attempt the first US splashdown of returning astronauts in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot in 1968

The capsule carrying Apollo 8's three astronauts - the first men to fly to the moon - splashed into the Pacific near Hawaii before dawn on Dec. 27, 1968. The crew only orbited the moon and took stunning pictures

The capsule carrying Apollo 8's three astronauts - the first men to fly to the moon - splashed into the Pacific near Hawaii before dawn on Dec. 27, 1968. The crew only orbited the moon and took stunning pictures

The capsule carrying Apollo 8's three astronauts - the first men to fly to the moon - splashed into the Pacific near Hawaii before dawn on Dec. 27, 1968.

The Russians also had one crew splashdown in darkness, back in 1976. 

The two-man capsule could not dock to the Soviet Union's Salyut 5 space station as intended and had to make a hasty return, ending up in a partially frozen lake in Kazakhstan - in the middle of a blizzard. It took hours for recovery teams to rescue the cosmonauts.

Even with the early hour, the Coast Guard promises to have more patrols to keep sightseers at a safe distance. On a Sunday afternoon last August, pleasure boaters swarmed the capsule that parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico with the first SpaceX crew.

The departure of NASA's Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi will leave seven aboard the space station. Their replacements - representing the U.S., Japan and France - arrived last weekend in their own SpaceX capsule for a six-month mission. 

The three remaining crew members - one American and two Russians - launched in a Russian capsule from Kazakhstan three weeks ago. 

The departure of NASA's Mike Hopkins (second right), Victor Glover(second left)  and Shannon Walker (left) and Japan's Soichi Noguchi (right) will leave seven aboard the space station. Splashdown is set for around 3am ET in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida

The departure of NASA's Mike Hopkins (second right), Victor Glover(second left)  and Shannon Walker (left) and Japan's Soichi Noguchi (right) will leave seven aboard the space station. Splashdown is set for around 3am ET in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida

NASA initially set the return date to April 29, but poor weather in the splashdown zone forced officials to push undocking to Friday.

Crew-2 mission brought the latest batch of astronauts to the ISS Sunday, which overlapped Crew-1 that was set to head home to Earth a few days later.

However, NASA released an official statement Tuesday announcing a delay due to poor weather conductions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which currently predict wind speeds above the recovery criteria.

The returning astronauts, Crew-1, launched to the ISS on November 15, 2020, which was the first to follow the historic Demo-2 mission in May 2020. 

It was only the second time that SpaceX, which is owned by Elon Musk, sent people into orbit in its Dragon capsule via its Falcon rocket.

The crew led by Hopkins, an Air Force colonel, includes physicist Walker and Navy Cmdr. and rookie astronaut Glover, who is the first black astronaut to spend an extended amount of time on the space station.

Noguchi also became only the third person to rocket into orbit aboard three different kinds of spacecraft.

The team of four named their capsule Resilience given all the challenges in 2020, most notably the global pandemic.

SpaceX is set to perform the FIRST US astronaut crew splashdown in the dark since Apollo 8 when it brings Crew-2 back from the International Space Station at 3am ET Sunday SpaceX is set to perform the FIRST US astronaut crew splashdown in the dark since Apollo 8 when it brings Crew-2 back from the International Space Station at 3am ET Sunday Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 06:47 Rating: 5

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