The first mission of SpaceX’s all-new Dragon crew capsule could hardly have gone any smoother.
spaceship, named Libertyflew SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA, which ended Friday afternoon (October 14) with a splash in the atlantic ocean off Jacksonville, Florida.
Freedom’s return to Earth went like clockwork, as did pretty much the entire mission, NASA and SpaceX officials said.
Related: Stunning photos from SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission
“From my perspective, looking at vehicle data for those five and a half months was delightfully boring, while the crew had to do all the exciting work aboard the ISS,” said Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX. Dragon mission management, said at a press conference after the splash Friday night.
“That’s exactly how we like it,” Walker added. “The Freedom vehicle has performed beautifully throughout, and especially today on the day of its return.”
Crew-4 took off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 27, carrying NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and the European Space Agency’s Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti to the orbiting laboratory.
Freedom arrived at the ISS the same day and its crew members quickly got to work. Crew-4 astronauts conducted “more than 250 surveys in areas of human research technology demonstrations that we will need for exploration, as well as some of our marketing activities in low earth orbit“Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program manager, said at Friday night’s press conference.
The astronauts’ return trip to Earth on Friday was also notable, and not just for its smoothness: Freedom splashed down less than five hours after undocking from the ISS.
“It was actually the fastest return we’ve had on a crewed mission – on any mission – to date,” Walker said.
SpaceX still has a mission to the ISS, and will for a while; the quadruple 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 a veteran Dragon capsule. That next mission, slated for launch next spring, will fly aboard the Endeavor spacecraft, NASA commercial crew program manager Steve Stich said during Friday’s briefing.
Endeavor flew SpaceX’s first-ever astronaut mission, the Demo-2 flight to the ISS in 2020, as well as Axiom SpaceX’s Crew-2 and Ax-1 flight. 17 days Axe-1which took place in April this year, was the first fully private crewed mission to the space station.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).