NASA’s SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule returned to earth safely, ending 200-day flight

Live thermal video imaging captured a glimpse of the capsule streaking like a meteor through the night sky over the Gulf minutes before splashdown.

A 200-day space station mission that began last spring came to an end as four astronauts strapped inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule returned to earth safely on Monday. This ended the six-month NASA science mission aboard the International Space Station and a daylong flight home.

The Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endeavour, parachuted into the sea as planned just after 10.30 pm EST on Monday (around 9am on Tuesday, November 9), following a fiery re-entry descent through Earth’s atmosphere carried live by a NASA webcast.

Live thermal video imaging captured a glimpse of the capsule streaking like a meteor through the night sky over the Gulf minutes before splashdown.

Applause was heard from the flight control center as the four main parachutes inflated above the capsule as it drifted down toward the Gulf surface, slowing its speed to about 15 miles per hour (24 kmph) before dropping gently into the calm sea.

“Endeavour, on behalf of SpaceX, welcome home to planet Earth,” a voice from the SpaceX flight control center in suburban Los Angeles was heard telling the crew as a safe splashdown was confirmed. “It’s great to be back,” one of the astronauts radioed in reply.

Operating autonomously, the spacecraft began its eight-hour return voyage earlier in the day with a 90-minute fly-around of the space station as the crew snapped a series of survey photographs of the orbiting outpost, circling the globe some 250 miles (400 km) high. The Crew Dragon then proceeded through a series of maneuvers over the course of the day to bring it closer to Earth and line up the capsule for its final nighttime descent.

It wasn’t the most comfortable ride back. The toilet in their capsule was broken, and so the astronauts needed to rely on diapers for the eight-hour trip home. They shrugged it off late last week as just one more challenge in their mission.

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