NASA Delays SpaceX Crew-1 Astronauts Return to Earth – Here’s Why

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – who constitute the crew of NASA’s Crew-1 mission – inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is now targeting a return to Earth at 11:36 a.m. EDT Saturday, May 1, in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station at 5:55 p.m. Friday, April 30, to begin the journey home.

NASA and SpaceX agreed to move Crew-1’s undocking and splashdown from Wednesday, April 28, following a review of forecast weather conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which currently predict wind speeds above the recovery criteria. Teams will continue to monitor weather conditions for splashdown ahead of Friday’s planned undocking.

The return to Earth – and activities leading up to the return – will air live on NASA Television, the NASA App, and the agency’s website.

Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 Members

Pictured from left are Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. Credit: NASA

Crew-1 is the first of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which worked with the U.S. aerospace industry to return launches with astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.

In advance of departure from the space station, Crew-1 astronaut and station Commander Shannon Walker of NASA will hand over command of the station to JAXA astronaut and Crew-2 member Akihiko Hoshide during a change of command and farewell event.

The Crew Dragon will undock autonomously and depart from the space station with the capability to splashdown at one of seven targeted landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. Resilience also will return to Earth important and time-sensitive research. For normal crew rescue and recovery operations, the NASA and SpaceX teams select two primary splashdown locations from the seven possible locations about two weeks prior to return, with additional decision milestones taking place prior to crew boarding the spacecraft, during free flight, and before Crew Dragon performs a deorbit burn.

NASA and SpaceX closely coordinate with the U.S. Coast Guard to establish a 10-nautical-mile safety zone around the expected splashdown location to ensure safety for the public and for those involved in the recovery operations, as well as the crew aboard the returning spacecraft.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 return coverage is as follows (all times are Eastern):

Tuesday, April 27

1:25 p.m. – Change of Command and Crew-1 farewell remarks aboard the International Space Station

Friday, April 30

3:30 p.m. – NASA TV coverage begins for 3:50 p.m. hatch closure

5:30 p.m. – NASA TV coverage begins for 5:55 p.m. undocking

Saturday, May 1

11:36 a.m. – Splashdown (NASA TV will provide continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)

1:30 p.m. – Return to Earth news conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, with the following participants:

  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, Kennedy Space Center
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station, Johnson
  • Holly Ridings, chief flight director, Johnson
  • Hans Koenigsmann, senior advisor, Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has delivered on its goal of safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the United States through a partnership with American private industry. This partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science, and more commercial opportunities. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars.


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