Fireball spotted in the sky as SpaceX capsule returns to Earth

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 1:47 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX/AP) - Did you see a fireball streak across the night sky Monday? If so, you weren’t alone. Hundreds of South Mississippians reported seeing the SpaceX capsule reenter earth’s atmosphere around 9:30pm Monday.

Their capsule streaked through the late night sky like a dazzling meteor before parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola.

The four astronauts in the SpaceX Crew-2 and Dragon Endeavour spent 199 days in orbit at the International Space Station. It’s the first U.S. spacecraft to reach that milestone.

FILE - From front left, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Megan...
FILE - From front left, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide leave the Operation and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 23, 2021.(AP Photo/John Raoux, file)

As they reentered the atmosphere Monday night, a dazzling ball of fire could be seen blazing across the clear night sky all along the Gulf Coast. The capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Florida around 9:30pm.

Before leaving, the four took a spin around the space station, taking pictures. This was a first for SpaceX; NASA’s shuttles used to do it all the time before their retirement a decade ago. The last Russian capsule fly-around was three years ago.

Among the upbeat milestones: four spacewalks to enhance the station’s solar power, a movie-making visit by a Russian film crew and the first-ever space harvest of chile peppers.

Monday’s homecoming — which came just eight hours after the capsule left the International Space Station — paved the way for the next team of astronauts to go to space. SpaceX’s launch of those four could come as early as Wednesday night.

The next crew will also spend six months up there, welcoming back-to-back groups of tourists. A Japanese tycoon and his personal assistant will get a lift from the Russian Space Agency in December, followed by three businessmen arriving via SpaceX in February. SpaceX’s first privately chartered flight, in September, bypassed the space station.

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