Splashdown

Splashdown

Splashdown

Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. It was used by American manned spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle program, and is planned for use by the upcoming Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contingency. The only example of an unintentional manned splashdown in Soviet history is the Soyuz 23 landing.

As the name suggests, the capsule parachutes into an ocean or other large body of water. The properties of water cushion the spacecraft enough that there is no need for a braking rocket to slow the final descent as is the case with Russian and Chinese manned space capsules, which return to Earth over land. The American practice came in part because American launch sites are on the coastline and launch primarily over water.[citation needed] Russian launch sites are far inland and most early launch aborts were likely to descend on land.[citation needed]

Contents
1 Missions
2 Disadvantages
3 Locations
3.1 Manned spacecraft
3.2 Unmanned spacecraft
4 Gallery
5 See also
6 Notes
7 Bibliography
Missions

Apollo 14 returns to Earth, 1971
The splashdown method of landing was utilized for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo (including Skylab, which used Apollo capsules). On one occasion a Soviet spacecraft, Soyuz 23, unintentionally punched through the ice of a frozen lake (nearly killing the cosmonauts).[1]

On early Mercury flights, a helicopter attached a cable to the capsule, lifted it from the water and delivered it to a nearby ship. This was changed after the sinking of Liberty Bell 7. All later Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules had a flotation collar (similar to a rubber life raft) attached to the spacecraft to increase their buoyancy. The spacecraft would then be brought alongside a ship and lifted onto deck by crane.

After the flotation collar is attached, a hatch on the spacecraft is usually opened. At that time, some astronauts decide to be hoisted aboard a helicopter for a ride to the recovery ship and some decided to stay with the spacecraft and be lifted aboard ship via crane. (Because of his overshoot aboard Aurora 7, and mindful of the fate of Liberty Bell 7, Scott Carpenter alone egressed through the nose of his capsule instead of through the hatch, waiting for recovery forces in his life raft.) All Gemini and Apollo flights (Apollos 7 to 17) used the former, while Mercury missions from Mercury 6 to Mercury 9, as well as all Skylab missions and Apollo-Soyuz used the latter, especially the Skylab flights as to preserve all medical data. During the Gemini and Apollo programs, NASA used MV Retriever for the astronauts to practice water egress.

Apollo 11 was America’s first moon landing mission and marked the first time that humans walked on the surface of another planetary body. The possibility of the astronauts bringing “moon germs” back to Earth was remote, but not impossible. To contain any possible contaminants at the scene of the splashdown, the astronauts donned special Biological Isolation Garments and the outside of the suits were scrubbed prior to the astronauts being hoisted aboard USS Hornet and escorted safely inside a Mobile Quarantine Facility.[2]

The early design concept for the new U.S. Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle featured recovery on land using a combination of parachutes and airbags, although it was also designed to make a contingency splashdown (only for an in-flight abort) if needed. Due to weight considerations, the airbag design concept was dropped. The present design concept features landings via splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.[3]

Disadvantages
The most dangerous aspect is the possibility of the spacecraft flooding and sinking. For example, when the hatch of Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 capsule blew prematurely, the capsule sank and Grissom almost drowned.

Despite the fact that water helps cushion the spacecraft’s landing to an extent, the impact can still be quite violent for the astronauts.

If the capsule comes down far from any recovery forces the crew are exposed to greater danger. As an example, Scott Carpenter in Mercury 7 overshot the assigned landing zone by 400 kilometers (250 mi). These recovery operation mishaps can be mitigated by placing several vessels on standby in several different locations, but this is quite an expensive option.

Locations
Manned spacecraft
# Spacecraft Landing date Coordinates Recovery ship Miss distance (km) Reference
1 Freedom 7 May 5, 1961 27°13.7′N 75°53′W USS Lake Champlain 5.6 km (3.5 mi) [4] 2 Liberty Bell 7 July 21, 1961 27°32′N 75°44′W USS Randolph 9.3 km (5.8 mi) [5] 3 Friendship 7 February 20, 1962 21°26′N 68°41′W USS Noa
(USS Randolph**) 74 [6] 4 Aurora 7 May 24, 1962 19°27′N 63°59′W USS John R. Pierce
(USS Intrepid**) 400 [7] 5 Sigma 7 October 3, 1962 32°06′N 174°28′W USS Kearsarge 7.4 [8] 6 Faith 7 May 16, 1963 27°20′N 176°26′W USS Kearsarge 8.1 [9] 7 Gemini 3 March 23, 1965 22°26′N 70°51′W USS Intrepid 111 [10] 8 Gemini 4 June 7, 1965 27°44′N 74°11′W USS Wasp 81 [11] 9 Gemini 5 August 29, 1965 29°44′N 69°45′W USS Lake Champlain 270 [12] 10 Gemini 7 December 18, 1965 25°25′N 70°07′W USS Wasp 12 [13] 11 Gemini 6A December 16, 1965 23°35′N 67°50′W USS Wasp 13 [14] 12 Gemini 8 March 17, 1966 25°14′N 136°0′E USS Leonard F. Mason
(USS Boxer**) 2 [15] 13 Gemini 9A June 6, 1966 27°52′N 75°0′W USS Wasp 0.7 [16] 14 Gemini 10 July 21, 1966 26°45′N 71°57′W USS Guadalcanal 6 [17] 15 Gemini 11 September 15, 1966 24°15′N 70°0′W USS Guam 5 [18] 16 Gemini 12 November 15, 1966 24°35′N 69°57′W USS Wasp 5 [19] 17 Apollo 7 October 22, 1968 27°32′N 64°04′W USS Essex 3 [20] 18 Apollo 8 December 27, 1968 8°7.5′N 165°1.2′W USS Yorktown 2 [21] 19 Apollo 9 March 13, 1969 23°15′N 67°56′W USS Guadalcanal 5 [22][23] 20 Apollo 10 May 26, 1969 15°2′S 164°39′W USS Princeton 2.4 [24][25] 21 Apollo 11 July 24, 1969 13°19′N 169°9′W USS Hornet 3.13 [26][27] 22 Apollo 12 November 24, 1969 15°47′S 165°9′W USS Hornet 3.7 [28][29] 23 Apollo 13 April 17, 1970 21°38′S 165°22′W USS Iwo Jima 1.85 [30][31] 24 Apollo 14 February 9, 1971 27°1′S 172°39′W USS New Orleans 1.1 [32][33] 25 Apollo 15 August 7, 1971 26°7′N 158°8′W USS Okinawa 1.85 [34][35] 26 Apollo 16 April 27, 1972 0°43′S 156°13′W USS Ticonderoga 0.55 [36][37] 27 Apollo 17 December 19, 1972 17°53′S 166°7′W USS Ticonderoga 1.85 [38][39] 28 Skylab 2 June 22, 1973 24°45′N 127°2′W USS Ticonderoga [40] 29 Skylab 3 September 25, 1973 30°47′N 120°29′W USS New Orleans [41] 30 Skylab 4 February 8, 1974 31°18′N 119°48′W USS New Orleans [41] 31 Apollo CSM-111 July 24, 1975 22°N 163°W USS New Orleans 1.3 [42][43] 32 Soyuz 23 October 16, 1976 Lake Tengiz Mi-8 helicopter [44] ** Planned recovery ship

Unmanned spacecraft
Spacecraft Agency Landing date Coordinates Recovery ship Miss distance
Jupiter AM-18
(Able and Baker) USAF May 28, 1959 48 to 96 km (30 to 60 mi) N Antigua Island USS Kiowa 16 km (9.9 mi)[45] Mercury-Big Joe NASA September 9, 1959 2,407 km (1,496 mi) SE Cape Canaveral USS Strong 925 km (575 mi)[46] Mercury-Little Joe 2 NASA December 4, 1959 319 km (198 mi) SE Wallops Island, Virgnia USS Borie ? km[47] Mercury-Redstone 1A NASA December 19, 1960 378.2 km (235.0 mi) SE Cape Canaveral USS Valley Forge 12.9 km (8.0 mi)[48] Mercury-Redstone 2 NASA January 31, 1961 675.9 km (420.0 mi) SE Cape Canaveral USS Donner[49] 209.2 km (130.0 mi)[50] Mercury-Atlas 2 NASA February 21, 1961 2,293.3 km (1,425.0 mi) SE Cape Canaveral USS Donner[49] 20.9 km (13.0 mi)[51] Discoverer 25
(Corona 9017) USAF June 16, 1961 mid-air recovery missed
Mercury-Atlas 4 NASA September 13, 1961 257.5 km (160.0 mi) E of Bermuda USS Decatur 64.4 km (40.0 mi)[52] Mercury-Atlas 5 NASA November 29, 1961 804.7 km (500.0 mi) SE of Bermuda USS Stormes ? km[53] Gemini 2 NASA January 19, 1965 16°33.9′N 49°46.27′W 3,423.1 km (2,127.0 mi) downrange from KSC USS Lake Champlain 38.6 km (24.0 mi)[54] AS-201 NASA February 26, 1966 8°11′S 11°09′W 8,472 km (5,264 mi) downrange from KSC USS Boxer ? km[55] AS-202 NASA August 25, 1966 16°07′N 168°54′E 804.7 km (500.0 mi) southwest of Wake Island USS Hornet ? km[56] Gemini 2-MOL USAF November 3, 1966 8,149.7 km (5,064.0 mi) SE KSC near Ascension Island USS La Salle 11.26 km (7.00 mi)[57] Apollo 4 NASA November 9, 1967 30°06′N 172°32′W USS Bennington 16 km (9.9 mi)[58] Apollo 6 NASA April 4, 1968 27°40′N 157°59′W USS Okinawa ? km[59] Zond 5 USSR September 21, 1968 32°38′S 65°33′E USSR recovery naval vessel Borovichy and Vasiliy Golovin 105 km (65 mi)[60][61] Zond 8 USSR October 27, 1970 730 km (450 mi) SE of the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean USSR recovery ship Taman 24 km[62][63] Cosmos 1374 USSR June 4, 1982 17°S 98°E 560 km (350 mi) S of Cocos Islands, Indian Ocean USSR recovery ship ? km
Cosmos 1445 USSR March 15, 1983 556 km (345 mi) S of Cocos Islands, Indian Ocean USSR recovery ship ? km
Cosmos 1517 USSR December 27, 1983 near Crimea, Black Sea USSR recovery ship ? km
Cosmos 1614 USSR December 19, 1984 ? km W of the Crimea, Black Sea USSR recovery ship ? km
COTS Demo Flight 1 SpaceX December 8, 2010 800 km (500 mi) west of Baja California, Mexico, Pacific Ocean ? 0.8 km (0.50 mi)[64] Dragon C2+ SpaceX May 31, 2012 26°55′N 120°42′W ? ?[65] CRS SpX-1 SpaceX October 28, 2012 ? American Islander[66] ?[67] CRS SpX-2 SpaceX March 27, 2013 ? American Islander ?[68] Exploration Flight Test 1 NASA December 5, 2014 23.6°N 116.4°W, 443 kilometres (275 mi) west of Baja California USS Anchorage
Gallery

The Apollo 15 spacecraft splashed down safely despite a parachute failure. (NASA)

Apollo 15 splashdown. (NASA)

Apollo 11 after splashdown. (NASA)

Apollo 13 hoisted onto ship. (NASA)

Gemini water egress training.

Recovery of the Dragon C2+ on May 31, 2012.

Recovery of the EFT-1 Orion, 5 December 2014

See also
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX
Spaceflight portal
Apollo program
Apollo–Soyuz Test Project
Project Gemini
Helicopter 66
Project Mercury
Skylab
Dragon
Zond program
Water landing
Notes
“Soyuz-23, Lands On A Frozen Lake”. VideoCosmos. Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2012-06-21.
http://www.uss-hornet.org/history/apollo/ | USS Hornet Museum’s website, “Apollo 11 & 12 Recovery” written by Bob Fish (author of Hornet Plus Three)
“Solar System Exploration: News & Events: News Archive: NASA Announces Key Decision For Next Deep Space Transportation System”. Solarsystem.nasa.gov. 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2012-06-21.
Ezell (1988) p. 143
Ezell (1988) p. 144
Ezell, Volume II, p. 145
Ezell, Volume II, p. 146
Ezell, Volume II, p. 147
Ezell, Volume II, p. 148
Ezell, Volume II, p. 159
Ezell, Volume II, p. 160
Ezell, Volume II, p. 161
Ezell, Volume II, p. 162
Ezell, Volume II, p. 163
Ezell, Volume II, p. 164
Ezell, Volume II, p. 165
Ezell, Volume II, p. 166
Ezell, Volume II, p. 167
Ezell, Volume II, p. 168
Ezell, Volume II, p. 188
Ezell, Volume II, p. 189
Ezell, Volume III, p. 83
Orloff, p. 58
Ezell, Volume III, p. 84
Orloff, p. 78
Ezell, Volume III, p. 85
Orloff, p. 98
Ezell, Volume III, p. 86
Orloff, p. 120
Ezell, Volume III, p. 87
Orloff, p. 143
Ezell, Volume III, p. 88
Orloff, p. 168
Ezell, Volume III, p. 89
Orloff, p. 197
Ezell, Volume III, p. 91
Orloff, p. 225
Ezell, Volume III, p. 92
Orloff, p. 251
Ezell, Volume III, p. 104
Ezell, Volume III, p. 105
Ezell, Volume III, p. 112
“ASTP Apollo Miss Distance”, ASTP Summary Science Report – Mission Description p. 36,[dead link] “Cosmonauts Land in Lake, Blizzard”. The Milwaukee Journal. UPI. October 18, 1976.
“Animals Survive 1,500-Mile Ride In Rocket Nose””. The Windsor Daily Star. Windsor, Ontario. Associated Press. May 28, 1959.
“Big Joe Shot”. nasa.gov. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
“Monkey Completes Long Flight Aloft”. Ellensburg Daily Record. Ellensburg, Washington. December 4, 1959.
“Man-In-Space Capsule To Be Closely Studied”. The Florence Times. Florence, Alabama. Associated Press. December 20, 1960.
“USS Donner LSD20”. Homestead.com. Retrieved 2012-06-21.
“Chimp Survives Space Shot”. The Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. February 1, 1961.
“Space Capsule Soars 107 Miles High”. The Florence Times. Florence, Alabama. Associated Press. February 21, 1961.
“U.S. Robot Orbited, Returned”. Meriden Journal. September 13, 1961.
“Capsule Trouble Forces Early Landing Of Craft”. Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. Associated Press. November 29, 1961.
“Gemini 2 Distance traveled, Landing Point, Miss Distance”, Manned Space Flight Network Performance Analysis for the GT-2 Mission; Pg V – Distance traveled, Page 21 – Landing Point, Miss Distance, (NASA X-552-65-204)
“Apollo 202 Distance traveled, Landing Point”, NASA.com – Apollo-Saturn Unmanned Missions – Mission AS-201
“Apollo 202 Distance traveled, Landing Point”, NASA.com – Apollo-Saturn Unmanned Missions – Mission AS-202
“Titan 3 Gives Spectacular Space Show”. Sarasota Journal. Sarasota, Florida. November 3, 1966.
“Apollo 4 Landing Point”, NASA.com – Apollo-Saturn Unmanned Missions – Mission Apollo 4
“Apollo 6 Landing Point”, NASA.com – Apollo-Saturn Unmanned Missions – Mission Apollo 6
Michael Cassutt (2007). Red Moon. Tom Doherty Associates. p. 320. ISBN 978-1-4299-7172-0.
“Zond 5, Landing Point, Miss Distance” Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, NASA Solar System Exploration – Zond 5, Landing Point, Miss Distance.
Brian Harvey (2007). Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-387-73976-2.
“Zond 8, Landing Point” Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, NASA Solar System Exploration – Zond 8, Splashdown area.
“COTS 1 (SpaceX Dragon 1), Splashdown area” Archived 2010-12-10 at the Wayback Machine
“History is made as Dragon splashes down safely in the Pacific! | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine”. Blogs.discovermagazine.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2012-06-21.
“American Island”. marinetraffic.com. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
“Dragon Returns to Earth”. NASA. 2012-10-28. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
“SpaceX brings home Dragon with 2,700 pounds of cargo”. Spaceflightnow. 2013-03-26. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
Bibliography

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