The first mission of SpaceX’s latest Dragon capsule couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
The spacecraft, codenamed Freedom, on SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronauts’ mission to NASA’s International Space Station (ISS), which concluded Friday afternoon (October 14) flew gracefully in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.
NASA and SpaceX representatives said the return of freedom to Earth was like clockwork, as it pretty much did the entire mission.
Related: Stunning images of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission
Sarah Walker, Dragon mission management director at SpaceX, said during a post-launch news conference Friday night.
“This is exactly what we love,” Walker added. “The Freedom car has performed beautifully all the time, and especially today on the day it comes back.”
Crew-4 blasted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 27, carrying NASA astronauts Jill Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency toward the orbiting laboratory.
Freedom arrived at the International Space Station on the same day, and soon its crew members were up and running. Crew-4 astronauts have completed “more than 250 investigations into areas of human research technology offerings that we will need for exploration, as well as completing some of our low Earth orbit commercialization activities,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s International Space Station program manager, during Friday. Evening press conference.
The astronauts’ return to Earth Friday was noteworthy, too, and not just for the smoothness of that flight: Freedom fell less than five hours after ejecting from the International Space Station.
“This was actually the fastest comeback we’ve made on a crew mission – of any mission – to date,” Walker said.
SpaceX still has a mission on the International Space Station, and it will continue for a while; The four-man Crew-5 arrived on October 6 aboard the Dragon Endurance, which also flew the company’s Crew-3 mission.
Like Crew-5, Crew-6 will use the seasoned Dragon capsule. The upcoming mission, scheduled for launch next spring, will fly aboard the Endeavor spacecraft, Steve Stitch, director of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said during Friday’s briefing.
Endeavor flew SpaceX’s first-ever astronaut mission, Experimental Flight 2 to the International Space Station in 2020, as well as Crew Flight 2 and SpaceX’s Ax-1. The 17-day Ax-1 spacecraft, which took place in April of this year, was the first fully private manned mission to the space station.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad (Opens in a new tab)Book (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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