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WATCH: A bright streak of light signaled the return of astronauts to Earth

2 months 2 weeks 3 days ago Tuesday, March 12 2024 Mar 12, 2024 March 12, 2024 1:51 PM March 12, 2024 in Weather news
Source: The Storm Station

If you were out and about early on Tuesday morning, you may have noticed a bright flash of light across the night sky. Several Storm Station sent in their photos of the spectacle.

It was not a shooting star. Rather, the fiery streak of light was a spacecraft carrying four astronauts who spent more than six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Dragon Endurance splashed down at 4:47 a.m. CDT off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The spacecraft encountered intense air resistance upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere, which allowed the vessel to heat up rapidly. This in turn led to a bright fireball flying through the sky. Skywatchers across the country had the chance to witness the reentry.

While in the upper atmosphere, the astronauts were traveling faster than the speed of sound. This produced a sonic boom over some parts of the country. A lot of speed was lost in the reentry process. The Dragon spacecraft had to decelerate from over 17,000 mph to nearly 350 mph four minutes prior to splashdown. A series of parachute deployments decelerated the spacecraft further until reaching the ground.

The return to Earth marks the end of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 mission. The mission lifted off in late August of 2023 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew-7 members contributed to a variety of science and maintenance activities while on the ISS.

The return of the Crew-7 follows shortly after NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 launch. The crew members left Earth on March 3, 2024 and docked to the ISS on March 5, marking the beginning of another expedition. Crew-8 is scheduled to return to Earth in Fall 2024.

When you see weather (or space) happening, share it with us! Email photos to weather@wbrz.com or submit them via the Storm Station Weather App.

 

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