The Splashdown: Rescuing Astronauts from the Command Modules of Spacecrafts

Rescuing ufonauts, I mean astronauts, from your primitive spacecrafts slpashing into the sea is apparently a thing – or at least was a thing – earthlings. But the splashdown is set to make its return, as it is planned for use by the upcoming Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle. As the name suggests, during a splashdown the command module of the spacecraft 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, as opposed to Russian ones, American launch sites are on the coastline and launch primarily over water. Below is a collection of splashdowns from the history of space travel (by humans).

The Apollo 14 crewmembers sit in a life raft beside their Command Module (CM) in the South Pacific Ocean as they await a U.S. Navy helicopter, which will take them aboard the USS New Orleans, prime recovery ship, 9 Feb. 1971 (NASA)
Apollo 15 command module splashing down (NASA)
Apollo 15 command module after splashdown (NASA)
Gemini 5 splashdown (NASA)
Crew module after splash down in the Pacific Ocean with the Crew Module Uprighting System bags deployed and the USS Anchorage in the background (NASA)
Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. is rescued by a U.S. Marine helicopter at the termination of his suborbital flight May 5, 1961, down range from the Florida eastern coast. (NASA)
Gemini3 after splashdown
Astronaut Charles Conrad Jr. climbs from the Gemini-11 spacecraft minutes after splashdown, September 15th, 1966. (NASA)
Apollo 14 returns to Earth, 1971 (NASA)
The three Apollo 11 crew men await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission (24 July 1969)
Apollo 13 hoisted onto ship. (NASA)
Grissom and Young exiting the Gemini 3 capsule after splashdown. (NASA)
Gemini XI Splashdown, September 1966 (NASA)
The Gemini 4 reentry module shown shortly after divers had attached a floatation collar to stabilize the spacecraft. (NASA)
Neil Armstrong and David Scott await recovery after the 1966 Gemini 8 mission
Gemini 9 splashdown (NASA)
Gemini 9 spacecraft after splashdown, 1966.
Gemini 9 spacecraft after splashdown, 1966.
In June 1966, the Apollo 1 crew practices water egress procedures with a full scale boilerplate model of the spacecraft. In the water at right are astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee (foreground). In raft near the spacecraft is astronaut Gus Grissom. NASA swimmers are in the water to assist in the practice session that took place at Ellington AFB, near the then-Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston. On January 27, 1967, the crew perished during a fire aboard the craft during launch rehearsal.

Sources: NASA, Wikipedia


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