Gulf Coast welcomes Spacex Dragon home


Darby Drapeau, Staff Writer

On Monday, November 8th around 9:30 p.m. CST SpaceX Dragon, the spacecraft owned by the Elon Musk Trust and operated by NASA, successfully landed off the Gulf Coast outside Pensacola Beach. 

This was SpaceX Dragon’s second long-term crew which included four individuals: NASA commander Shane Kimbrough, pilot Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Crew-2, as they are referred to by NASA, and their ship completed a six-month mission at the International Space Station (ISS). 

The journey home from the ISS lasted a little over eight hours, during which the crew was not able to use the restroom the entire time due to a urine leak. Pensacola residents had the perfect opportunity to view the Spacex Dragon entering Earth’s atmosphere as it glowed bright red and created a large orange tail due to extreme temperatures, which could possibly have reached higher than 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit according to NASA. 

The SpaceX Dragon was equipped with six parachutes to help slow the ship down upon reentry. One parachute seemed to have trouble opening properly, but the mission control team assured the media that this was not a danger to the crew and that it probably occurred due to the lines being bunched up together. 

According to an article written by The Washington Post, during those six months out in space, the crew completed a total of 300 experiments and four spacewalks. 

Spacewalks are extremely dangerous endeavors that only happen if deemed necessary. To complete a spacewalk the astronaut must exit the spacecraft or space station, equipped with immense safety equipment to complete some kind of crucial work on the exterior of the spacecraft or space station. 

In this case, NASA sent the astronauts of crew 2 on multiple spacewalks to upgrade crucial equipment on the ISS itself, such as new solar panels. The solar panels are used to help generate electricity and aid in multiple ISS Research Experiments. 

Research on board the ISS encompasses a large area of topics such as technologies within space like solar panels, observing the changes of Earth’s surface from the ISS’s vantage point of 400km, or studying the long-term effects our bodies face in the absence of gravity. 

Spacewalks were not the only nerve-wracking moments for this crew either.

According to NASA, the ISS was knocked out of its original position due to a malfunction with rocket thrusters. The blast from the thrusters sent the ISS out of control, on two different occasions. However, the crew was able to gain control of the ISS within an hour of the blasts and everyone remained safe.

“The ground teams really, really worked hard to make sure we were in the safest posture possible,” NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough told reporters at the Washington Post. “We were actually in the Dragon capsule in case something really bad did happen. We were ready to go and undock if that was necessary. Of course, it wasn’t, thankfully.”

SpaceX is scheduled to set out to space once again with crew three, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer. Crew three will launch from the Kennedy Space Center around 8:00 p.m. CST and you can watch live streams online for free.