SpaceX's Dragon capsule Freedom splashed down off the Florida coast late Tuesday night (May 30), wrapping up the Ax-2 private astronaut mission.
Freedom's return to Earth was quite a sight, as footage posted on Twitter shows. For example, Stephanie Ivison shared a video of the capsule carving a bright orange slice into the skies above Oklahoma as it headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.
"Just streaked across the sky in Tulsa at about 9:55pm. Looks like something re-entering the atmosphere. Pretty neat!" Ivison wrote.
Just streaked across the sky in Tulsa at about 9:55pm. Looks like something re-entering the atmosphere. Pretty neat! #okwx pic.twitter.com/ntTAONhSx0May 31, 2023
Twitter user TJ posted a short video as well, one that captured Freedom much closer to its splashdown site — and therefore much closer to the ground.
WTF is this!?!? Recorded in Baker, FL.. nowhere NEAR any nasa/space x launch sites 😳 pic.twitter.com/6xr3hjeFCgMay 31, 2023
Anyone know what this could be? 9:55 PM in Starkville, MS pic.twitter.com/QZ4SdpxCeCMay 31, 2023
Freedom hit the water right on schedule, splashing down in the Gulf off Panama City, Florida, at 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 GMT on May 31). The capsule was then met by a recovery ship and hauled onto it for the trip back to shore.
One of the shots — the main photo for this story, featured above — shows Freedom floating near its ride home, whose deck is outfitted with a striking array of green and red lights.
Another shot depicts recovery personnel tending to the capsule from a smaller craft, which presumably launched from the large recovery ship.
The third shows Freedom — its once bright-white exterior now sporting a "toasted marshmallow" look from the heat of atmospheric reentry — safely aboard that ship.
Ax-2 launched on May 21, carrying four people to the International Space Station (ISS). As its name suggests, Ax-2 is the second mission to the orbiting lab carried out by Houston-based company Axiom Space, after the pioneering Ax-1 flight in April 2022.
Ax-2 was commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who is now director of human spaceflight at Axiom. The other three crewmembers were paying customer John Shoffner, Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi.
AlQarni and Barnawi are members of Saudi Arabia's first astronaut class. They became the first Saudis ever to visit the ISS, and Ax-2 made Barnawi the first woman from the kingdom to reach the final frontier.
SpaceX will send two more Dragons to the orbiting lab soon, if all goes according to plan.
The company plans to launch a robotic cargo mission to the ISS on Saturday (June 3). And SpaceX's Crew-7 mission, which will send four astronauts to the orbiting lab for NASA, is scheduled to fly on the Crew Dragon Endurance in August.