SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronauts returned safely home aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday, May 2, 2021.
The four crew members — NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, together with Soichi Noguchi of Japan’s JAXA space agency — splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico after undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) around six hours earlier.
The historic mission marked the first operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule following the successful Demo-2 test flight with NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken last summer
This second crewed mission, plus last week’s launch of four other astronauts to the ISS on another Crew Dragon, helps to further establish SpaceX’s reputation as a reliable provider of astronaut transportation services, bringing crewed launches and landings back to the U.S. after a decade-long gap following the end of the Space Shuttle program.
SpaceX’s crewed missions also take the California-based company another step toward its dream of building a fully reusable space transportation system for missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
To celebrate Crew-1’s safe return, we’ve picked out some of the best photos and footage that tell the story of the successful six-month mission:
The Crew-1 astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida several days before launch.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket — carrying the astronauts inside the Crew Dragon capsule — lifts off from Launch Complex 39A on November 15, 2020.
A remarkable close-up shot showing several of the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines as the rocket roars into life and leaves the ground.
On their way to the ISS, the Crew-1 astronauts offer a quick tour of the Crew Dragon, which they named “Resilience.”
Watch as @Astro_illini, @AstroVicGlover, Shannon Walker and @Astro_Soichi give a tour around the @SpaceX Resilience #CrewDragon, and Victor Glover gets his gold astronaut pin! https://t.co/cBNqC61h27 pic.twitter.com/lnm93r7LAd
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) November 16, 2020
Check out this video looking from Resilience toward the ISS, and then from the ISS to Resilience, as the Crew-1 astronauts approach their destination.
The @SpaceX #CrewDragon is about 600 meters from the station and closing in autonomously. You can just make out the shape of both spacecraft as they near docking. https://t.co/yuOTrZ4Jut pic.twitter.com/SFFgpnBDIk
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) November 17, 2020
Safely docked, the four Crew-1 astronauts are welcomed into the space station by NASA’s Kate Rubins, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
The @SpaceX #CrewDragon hatch opened at 1:02am ET and astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi entered the station moments later joining the Exp 64 crew. https://t.co/yuOTrYN8CV pic.twitter.com/gbmPpibTXc
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) November 17, 2020
The space station’s Expedition 64 crew members.
The Crew-1 astronauts settling into life on the orbiting laboratory around 250 miles above Earth.
The @SpaceX #CrewDragon astronauts, @Astro_illini, @AstroVicGlover, @Astro_Soichi and Shannon Walker are hard at work and getting used to life on the station. More… https://t.co/aAp79ML16o pic.twitter.com/dAPTWC2DjA
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) November 24, 2020
Thanksgiving aboard the space station, but, by the looks of it, not your usual Thanksgiving dinner.
Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi quickly established a reputation as the ace photographer of the Expedition 64 crew. Here’s an image he captured showing the docked Crew Dragon Resilience capsule and the moon.
More stunning images snapped by Noguchi include this one of New York City and north-east New Jersey …
… and this absolute gem showing a moonrise.
Meanwhile, the station’s Plant Habitat — an experimental device that could one day be used to grow food for missions in deep space — appears to be working well.
Radishes grow fast, but maybe not this fast! Check out one month of @Space_Station radish growth in 10 seconds.⏱️
Radishes are used for the Plant Habitat-02 study because they're nutritious, grow quickly and are genetically similar to Arabidopsis, a plant often studied in space. pic.twitter.com/f3c8urlCei
— ISS Research (@ISS_Research) December 1, 2020
Noguchi’s photo of New Orleans taken from the International Space Station.
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) December 3, 2020
Another extraordinary shot from the Japanese astronaut, this one showing Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
Mike Hopkins shifting stuff around in a bid to make some room ahead of an imminent delivery from a Dragon supply ship.
I need more space! Even among the stars, sometimes that’s true, especially when we’re getting ready for cargo vehicles to arrive. We have limited storage on @Space_Station, but luckily moving things around is super easy when everything is floating! pic.twitter.com/MBlY36WcQh
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) December 4, 2020
And here comes SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, laden with food supplies, science experiments, and other goodies.
The @SpaceX #Dragon resupply ship is approaching the station with over 6,400 pounds of crew supplies and science experiments for a 1:30pm ET docking. https://t.co/yuOTrZ4Jut pic.twitter.com/3cwD2QW99A
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) December 7, 2020
Hopkins inside the Columbus laboratory module. Here the NASA astronaut is conducting the GRASP experiment that explores how the central nervous system, specifically hand-eye coordination, adapts to microgravity.
Meanwhile, Glover demonstrates one of the ways astronauts on the space station maintain their fitness and muscle mass.
Space gains! Keeping our bones and muscles strong requires some strength training on this amazing machine, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED). It is one of my favorite technologies on the @Space_Station. pic.twitter.com/g0VtZhn4jC
— Victor Glover (@AstroVicGlover) December 11, 2020
Even astronauts love a bit of bubble wrap!
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) December 13, 2020
Noguchi describes his stunning photo of the Western Sahara as “almost like an oil painting.”
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) December 13, 2020
And here’s Noguchi with his camera inside the space station’s seven-window Cupola observatory from where he took most of his Earth photos.
Hopkins apparently delighted at nailing another radish harvest.
Last radish harvest of the year! pic.twitter.com/KvzHJak0Gg
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) December 31, 2020
Five of the station’s seven astronauts see in the New Year. But being aboard a satellite hurtling around Earth 16 times a day at a speed of 17,500 mph, how did they know when to celebrate? Well, here’s how.
???? "Hello, planet Earth! We hope this inspires you to celebrate in your own way." A zero-gravity ball drop for New Year's on the @Space_Station: https://t.co/jYjrSkJ8O5 pic.twitter.com/P1Sdx9LeSk
— NASA (@NASA) December 31, 2020
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus NG-14 supply ship departs the space station after a 115-day stay, with the Galápagos Islands viewable below. A few days later the ship burned up as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.
Glover gives Noguchi a haircut. Here’s a video of another astronaut showing how haircuts work in space (microgravity conditions mean the experience is a little different to the one at your local barbershop).
Expedition 64 gets together for a most unusual group photo.
With 7 people on board, it’s hard to find space for a crew portrait…fortunately microgravity helps pic.twitter.com/6jJTkyPc2W
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) January 13, 2021
SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon supply ship departs the space station to begin its journey back to Earth.
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) January 14, 2021
Gorgeous images of the Northern Lights, as seen from the International Space Station.
The station's orbit takes it as high 51.6° above the equator offering awe-inspiring views of the Earth's aurora in between the city lights and the twinkling stars. https://t.co/gzNPCS8UMl pic.twitter.com/JEAwJI0LEX
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) January 23, 2021
Glover and Hopkins prepare for a spacewalk, with help from Noguchi.
Crew Dragon Resilience, which brought the Crew-1 astronauts to the space station, can be seen in the top left of the image.
Not every day you get to see your spaceship and crew quarters from the outside. Looking good Resilience! pic.twitter.com/Uoywbp24RP
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) January 28, 2021
Glover, on his very first spacewalk, carefully jettisons a piece of unwanted equipment. It has to be sent into precisely the right orbit to ensure it doesn’t end up slamming into the space station later on. You can read more about the delicate process here.
.@AstroVicGlover jettisons a science antenna cover into space since it is no longer needed. It will eventually enter Earth's atmosphere and burn up safely. #AskNASA | https://t.co/yuOTrYN8CV pic.twitter.com/kBZfzqkJhw
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) January 27, 2021
Shannon Walker checks the station’s edible plants growing in space, among them pak choi, wasabi mustard, kale, and red romaine.
It’s February 8, 2021, and SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronauts surpass a long-standing American record for the most days spent in space by a crew launched aboard a U.S. spacecraft.
Historic "joint" crew photo! Today #Crew1 broke the record for longest US space capsule mission ever,Skylab 4's 84-day record in 1974. We were honored & thrilled to talk to #Skylab #astronaut Ed Gibson. Thanks @ASE_Astronauts! pic.twitter.com/JRaVmGJGlC
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) February 7, 2021
Following the completion of his second spacewalk on February 1, Glover tweets that he’s “filled with gratitude … working outside and seeing our vibrant Earth, so many stars, and much of the space station was worth the effort.”
Filled with gratitude for recently completing my first and second spacewalks – something I've rigorously trained for over the years. Working outside and seeing our vibrant Earth, so many stars, and much more of @Space_Station was worth the effort. Keep grinding! #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/fqcb3t7ZpC
— Victor Glover (@AstroVicGlover) February 8, 2021
Meanwhile, back in the Cupola, Noguchi is still snapping away. Here’s his cool shot of Key West at the end of the Florida Keys.
In a Q&A, Walker talks about how the crew and support team prepared for the Crew-1 mission with a pandemic going on.
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) February 10, 2021
Looking straight down onto a snow-covered Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain.
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) February 15, 2021
Hopkins and Noguchi practice using the space station’s robotic arm in preparation for the arrival of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus NG15 supply ship in February 2021.
And here’s the supply ship arriving.
Crew Dragon Resilience got a new friend today. Welcome aboard Cygnus SS Katherine Johnson! pic.twitter.com/cSHSbah9QC
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) February 22, 2021
Noguchi captures a stunning night shot of his country’s capital city, Tokyo.
Hopkins and Glover on their final spacewalk of the Crew-1 mission.
Views from this weekend’s spacewalk with @AstroVicGlover where we completed tasks to upgrade the @Space_Station's cooling system and communications gear…aka more WiFi in space! pic.twitter.com/bQNuflZfwt
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) March 15, 2021
The Crew-1 astronauts climb back into their spacesuits to take the Crew Dragon Resilience on its shortest ride ever to free up a port for an incoming spacecraft.
Check out this gorgeous timelapse captured by Noguchi.
— Mike Hopkins (@Astro_illini) April 12, 2021
In the days before Crew-1 departed the space station, two more groups of astronauts arrived at the space station, taking its total crew count to 11. Here they all are at mealtime, complete with food floating about.
The Crew-1 astronauts were set to return at the end of April, but a forecast for poor weather in the recovery zone off the coast of Florida prompted NASA and SpaceX to push splashdown to Sunday, May 2. The decision gives Noguchi the chance to tweet a few more eye-catching pictures, including this one of … er … his favorite cat-shaped island (Procida, Italy).
The extra time on the ISS also enables Glover to enjoy something even many astronauts never get to experience — a birthday in space!
Gratitude, wonder, connection. I’m full of and motivated by these feelings on my birthday, as my first mission to space comes to an end. This orbiting laboratory is a true testament to what we can accomplish when we work together as a team. Crew-1 is ready for our ride home! pic.twitter.com/CC6MajkZ1E
— Victor Glover (@AstroVicGlover) April 30, 2021
— NOGUCHI, Soichi 野口 聡一（のぐち そういち） (@Astro_Soichi) April 30, 2021
And how about this for a quirky yet fitting finale to the Crew-1 mission: Soichi Noguchi playing a Chopin étude to a video he shot of the setting moon.
On May 1, the Crew-1 astronauts undocked from the space station. In the early hours of May 2, in a rare nighttime splashdown, they arrived safely home.
“We’re continuing to hear good news after good news.”
???? The four main parachutes have deployed, slowing the crew’s capsule down for arrival off the coast of Panama City, Florida. pic.twitter.com/ZC9pab0y2d
— NASA (@NASA) May 2, 2021
- The James Webb Space Telescope is about to supercharge our hunt for exoplanets
- How is LPDDR5X RAM on MediaTek Dimensity 9000 better than LPDDR5?
- Watch the best bits from SpaceX’s historic all-civilian mission
- Meet the startup aiming to outshine SpaceX with reusable, 3D printable rockets
- The sound of science: Why audio is the next frontier in Mars exploration