Space Explored

SpaceX's Crew-2 splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico after a six-month stay in space

By Seth Kurkowski

November 9, 2021

The journey started when the four Crew-2 astronauts put on their SpaceX flight suits and boarded Dragon Endeavour.

Image: SpaceX

At about 2:05 p.m. EST, the Dragon undocked from the International Space Station and began its eight-hour journey back home.

Image: NASA

After undocking, Endeavour completed a Fly Around of the ISS. Fly Arounds have been done by previous spacecrafts, including the Space Shuttle, but this was a first for SpaceX's Dragon.

Image: NASA / SpaceX

This gave NASA great views of the station, allowing Pesquet to leave his seat and take photos of the station from angles not seen very often.

Image: NASA

After completing its Fly Around, Endeavour completed several departure burns, moving the spacecraft further away from the ISS.

Image: NASA / SpaceX

These burns slowed the Dragon down and put Endeavour into a lower orbit than the space station. This means the capsule actually started to move ahead of the ISS in its orbit.

Image: NASA

Once far enough away from the station and lined up with their landing zone near Pensacola, Florida, Endeavour jettisoned its trunk and began its deorbit burn.

Image: ESA

This 16-minute burn lowered Endeavour's orbit enough to start its fall into the atmosphere.

Image: NASA

Following a short expected communications blackout, nominal drogue and main parachutes were deployed by Dragon to finish slowing Endeavour down before splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico.

Video: NASA / SpaceX

During deployment of the main parachutes, one was slow to deploy fully, but by design, Crew Dragon can safely splash down with only three parachutes.

Image: NASA

SpaceX took about 20 minutes to rig Dragon Endeavour for lifting onto the company's recovery ship GO Navigator.

Image: NASA

Once onboard the ship, SpaceX personnel removed all four crew members from the spacecraft and got them into initial medical checkouts.

Images: NASA / SpaceX

The Crew-2 astronauts were flown via helicopter to land and sent to their agency's respective centers for final evaluations.

Image: NASA / SpaceX

Next up will be SpaceX's launch of Crew-3 on Wednesday evening. This will bring the next four astronauts to the ISS.

Image: Daryl Sausse' / Space Explored