SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts return to Earth tomorrow in rare nighttime splashdown

Clockwise from bottom right are Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi.
Clockwise from bottom-right are Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. NASA

After several delays, the four astronauts comprising the Crew-1 mission are scheduled to return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow, Sunday, May 2. They will be traveling back to Earth aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the scheduled splashdown off the coast of Florida is a rare after-dark homecoming.

The crew had been expected to return from space this week, but their trip home was delayed several times due to poor weather in the splashdown region. There were forecasts of strong winds in the Gulf of Mexico, which led NASA officials to delay the launch from the ISS to ensure the astronauts could land safely in the ocean.

But the weather is looking up this weekend. NASA writes, “Teams now forecast ideal conditions for both splashdown and recovery during the weekend.” The departure from the space station has been scheduled for 8:35 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 1, when the craft will undock from the station. The astronauts will travel back to Earth through Saturday evening and have a scheduled splashdown early on Sunday morning at around 2:57 a.m. ET.

That means it will be dark when the craft lands in the ocean, which doesn’t happen often. “This will be the first night splashdown of a U.S. crewed spacecraft since Apollo 8’s predawn return in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 27, 1968, with NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders,” NASA writes.

The four crew members are NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, plus Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). They formed the crew for the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon craft, called Crew-1, which launched in November.

The crew has been living on the space station since then, participating in research and also working on upgrading the station’s power system. The station is currently unusually busy, with a massive crew of 11 people compared to its usual crew of three to six. You can see how chaotic a meal for 11 in zero gravity is in a fun image of the entire crew taken last week.

If you’d like to follow the homecoming of the four Crew-1 astronauts tonight and tomorrow morning, we have all the details on how to watch the event live.

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