Dolphin gets front-row seat for Crew-1 astronauts’ splashdown return to Earth

Astronauts returned overnight Sunday after 6 months in space

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – As recovery boats waited for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft carrying four astronauts back to Earth, one animal had a front-row seat for the splashdown.

The Dragon spacecraft called Resilience blasted through Earth’s atmosphere after 2 a.m. ET then, aided by a parachute system the spacecraft, slowed from 350 mph to 15 mph to gently drop into the Gulf of Mexico.

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One dolphin was hanging out with the recovery team as they waited for the spacecraft to arrive.

Bill Spetch, manager of the NASA International Space Station Transportation Integration Office, and NASA astronaut representative Joe Acaba watch a dolphin swim next to a ship Saturday, May 1, 2021, as NASA and SpaceX teams prepared for the splashdown of the SpaceX capsule in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Fla., Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP) ((NASA/Bill Ingalls) For copyright and restrictions refer to -

The splashdown made waves off the state’s coast, which the dolphin did not stick around for.

The astronaut homecoming marked the first time in more than 50 years a capsule was retrieved at sea in the darkness of night, according to NASA. The last time this happened was when Apollo 8 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 27, 1968, with NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.

Twice delayed due to weather around the landing zone, the astronauts had a few more days on space station to spend with the seven other crew members, including the four Crew-2 astronauts who arrived last week also in a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.