SpaceX, the renowned space exploration company, reported the successful splashdown of its reusable manned spacecraft, Crew Dragon, in the Atlantic Ocean. This event took place on Friday, February 9, following the completion of the spacecraft’s stay at the International Space Station (ISS). The Crew Dragon was notable for carrying four space tourists on board, marking another significant milestone in SpaceX’s history.
The Crew Dragon’s descent capsule, after detaching from its orbit, utilized a parachute system to ensure a soft and safe splashdown. The landing zone was located off the east coast of Florida, in close proximity to the city of Dayton. This report comes from Interfax. The SpaceX search and rescue vessel, Shannon, was strategically positioned in the splashdown area to retrieve the capsule.
The Crew Dragon, with its crew of space tourists, initially launched for the ISS on January 19. Leading the crew was former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria. Lopez-Alegria also served as the commander for SpaceX’s inaugural mission to the ISS, Axiom-1. Accompanying him on the journey to the ISS were Italians Walter Villadei, who served as the pilot, Swede Markus Wandt and Alper Gezeravcı, both serving as mission specialists. Notably, Gezeravcı made history by becoming the first-ever Turkish astronaut. All three individuals have previously served in their respective countries’ air forces.
The third Axiom mission, Ax-3, saw a crew of four spending over two weeks on the ISS. During their stay, they worked in tandem with the station’s current crew. The space tourists managed to conduct about 30 scientific experiments aboard the ISS, contributing to the ongoing research and exploration efforts.
SpaceX’s first commercial astronaut mission, Ax-1, unfolded in April 2022. Initially, the mission was slated to last for 10 days. However, due to adverse weather conditions at the splashdown site off the Florida coast, the four astronauts had to extend their stay by an additional week. The cost of the flight for each member of the Axiom-1 mission was estimated to be $55 million, underlining the significant investment required for such space missions.
The second mission of the company, Ax-2, saw the crew’s flight to the ISS in May 2023. This followed the successful completion and return of the Ax-1 mission.
Looking ahead, flights carrying space tourists under the Axiom Space program, in collaboration with SpaceX, are scheduled to take place two to three times annually. This ambitious plan underscores the growing commercial and tourism potential of space exploration.