CAPE CANAVERAL, FL (AP) – SpaceX will experience the first American splash of returning astronauts in the dark this weekend since the 1968 Apollo 8 lunar image.
Elon Musk’s company is heading to Sunday hours to bring back three NASA astronauts and one from Japan after a dangerously strong wind transferred a pair of earlier attempts.
The astronauts – only the second crew to fly SpaceX – will leave the International Space Station on Saturday aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule that carried them last November. They will aim to take off 6 1
In January, SpaceX returned a cargo capsule with an outburst in the dark. That adds to NASA’s confidence to return home at night, said Rob Navias, a spokesman for the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“SpaceX has had numerous dress rehearsals and spent a lot of time recovering overnight,” he said.
Navias said the time interval provided the best weather conditions for the coming days.
The capsule carrying the three astronauts of Apollo 8 – the first men to fly to the moon – was sprayed into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii before dawn on December 27, 1968.
The Russians also had a crew splash in the dark in 1976. The two-man capsule could not be attached to the Soviet Salyut 5 space station as intended and had to return in a hurry, ending in a partially frozen lake in Kazakhstan – in the middle of blizzard. It took hours for the recovery teams to save the astronauts.
Even at an early hour, the Coast Guard promises to have more patrols to keep observers at a safe distance. On Sunday afternoon last August, vessels filled the capsule, which parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico with the first crew of SpaceX.
The departure of Mike Hopkins from NASA, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi will leave seven aboard the space station. Their deputies – representing the United States, Japan and France – arrived last weekend in their own six-month SpaceX capsule. The three remaining crew members – an American and two Russians – were shot in a Russian capsule from Kazakhstan three weeks ago.
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