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Encyclopedia > Splashdown (spacecraft landing)
Atlantic splashdown locations of American spacecraft.

Splashdown is the method of landing by parachute in a body of water of spacecraft. It was used by American manned spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contignency. As the name suggests, the capsule parachutes into an ocean or other large body of water. The properties of the water cushion the spacecraft enough that there is no need for a braking rocket to slow the final descent as was the case with Russian and Chinese manned space capsules, which returned to Earth over land instead. The American practice came in part because American launch sites are on the coastline and launch primarily over water. Russian and Chinese launch sites are far inland and most early launch aborts are likely to descend on land. Image File history File links Splashdown. ... Image File history File links Splashdown. ... The Apollo 15 capsule landed safely despite a parachute failure. ... The Space Shuttle Columbia seconds after engine ignition, 1981 (NASA). ... Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft approaching International Space Station Soyuz 19 spacecraft as seen from Apollo CM Soyuz spacecraft of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) Early 7K-OK Soyuz at National Space Centre, Leicester, England Soyuz (Soyus, Союз, union) is a series of spacecraft designed by Sergey Korolev for the Soviet... 1:40 scale model of Shenzhou 1 Shenzhou (Chinese: 神舟; pinyin: ) is the name of a spacecraft from the Peoples Republic of China which first carried a Chinese astronaut into orbit on October 15, 2003. ... The worlds oceans as seen from the South Pacific Ocean (from Okeanos, Greek for river, the ancient Greeks noticed that a strong current flowed off Gibraltar, and assumed it was a great river); covers almost three quarters (71%) of the surface of the Earth, and nearly half of the...


The splashdown method of landing was utilized for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. There were a few cases in which Russian manned spacecraft landed in inland waters, but these were unintentional. Description Role: Orbital spaceflight Crew: one, pilot Dimensions Height: 11. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Description Role: Earth and Lunar Orbit Crew: 3; CDR, CM pilot, LM pilot Dimensions Height: 36. ...


While the water the spacecraft landed on would cushion it to some degree, the impact could still be quite violent for the astronauts. On Apollo 12, a camera mounted by one of the command module's windows broke loose and hit Alan Bean on the head, rendering him unconscious. U.S. Space Shuttle astronaut Bruce McCandless II using a manned maneuvering unit. ... Apollo 12 was the sixth manned mission in the Apollo program and the second to land on the Moon. ... Alan Beans NASA photo Alan Bean (born March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas) is a former NASA Astronaut. ...


There are several disadvantages for splashdowns, foremost among them being the danger of the spacecraft flooding and sinking. This happened to Gus Grissom when the hatch of his Mercury 4 capsule malfunctioned and blew prematurely. The capsule was lost and Grissom nearly drowned. Space capsules are also not very good boats and many astronauts got seasick. Gus Grissom in his Mercury spacesuit Virgil Ivan Gus Grissom (April 3, 1926 – January 27, 1967) was a U.S. Air Force pilot who became one of the first American astronauts and one of the first to die in the U.S. space program. ... Mercury 4 was a Mercury program manned space mission launched on July 21, 1961 using a Redstone rocket. ...

Pacific splashdown locations of American spacecraft.

Another problem associated with splashdown is that 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-km. This was caused by a retroattitude misalignment caused by the spacecraft automatic guidance system. It took three hours for a recovery helicopter to reach his location. These recovery operation mishaps can be mitigated by placing several vessels on standby in several different locations, but this is quite an expensive option. Image File history File links Splashdown_2. ... Image File history File links Splashdown_2. ... Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter inspects the heat shield of his Aurora 7 space capsule Malcolm Scott Carpenter (born May 1, 1925) was one of the original seven astronauts selected in 1959 for Project Mercury. ... Alternate meaning: Mercury Seven Crew Scott Carpenter The original prime crew for Mercury Atlas-7 was Deke Slayton, however Slayton was controversially removed from all flight crew availability after the discovery of cardiac arrhythmia during a training run in the G-loading centrifuge. ...


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, 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.


Future American space capsules will probably use a parasail-type parachute to make softer landings on dry land. This idea was first proposed for the Gemini spacecraft, but was dropped in favor of the traditional parachute system.



Apollo splashdown. (NASA)
Apollo splashdown. (NASA)
Apollo after splashdown. (NASA)
Apollo after splashdown. (NASA)
Apollo hoisted onto ship. (NASA)
Apollo hoisted onto ship. (NASA)


Apollo CM splashdown. ... Apollo CM splashdown. ... Apollo CM after splashdown. ... Apollo CM after splashdown. ... Apollo CM hoisted onto recovery ship. ... Apollo CM hoisted onto recovery ship. ...


The coordinates for the following spacecraft are estimated. No official numbers could be found, just small recovery zone diagrams or distance descriptions to nearby islands:

  • Friendship 7 - Landing site: 200 nm (370 km) WNW of San Juan, Puerto Rico and 166 miles (267 km) East of Grand Turk Island. According to a chart printed in the NASA publication, "Results of the First United States Manned Orbital Space Flight, Feb. 20, 1962", the landing coordinates are near 21°29′N 68°48′W.
  • Sigma 7 - Landing site: 275 miles (440 km) North East of Midway Island. 275 miles (440 km) NE of Midway Island. The landing coordinates were near 32° 7' 30" N - 174° 45' W according to a chart in NASA publication SP-12 "Results of the Third U.S. Manned Orbital Space Flight, October 3, 1962" .
  • Faith 7 - Landing site: According to NASA SP-45 "Mercury Project Summary Including Results of the Fourth Manned Orbital Flight", Faith 7 landed 70 nautical miles (130-km) South East of Midway Island. This would be near 27°30′N 176°15′W.

Manned Spacecraft Splashdown Data

Spacecraft Landing Date Coordinates Recovery Ship Miss Distance
Freedom 7 May 5, 1961 27.23° N - 75.88° W USS Lake Champlain CVS 39 9.2 km
Liberty Bell 7 July 21, 1961 27°32′9″N, 75°45′57″W USS Randolph CVS-15 9.2 km
Friendship 7 February 20, 1962 21°29′N 68°48′W USS Noa DD-841 (USS Randolph CVS-15**) 75 km
Aurora 7 May 24, 1962 19°29′N 64°5′W USS Farragut DLG-6 (USS Intrepid CVS-11**) 400 km
Sigma 7 October 3, 1962 32° 7' 30" N - 174° 45' W USS Kearsarge CVS-33 8.2 km
Faith 7 May 16, 1963 ~27°30′N 176°15′W USS Kearsarge CVS-33 6.4 km
Gemini 3 March 23, 1965 22°26′N 70°51′W USS Intrepid CVS-11 111.1 km
Gemini 4 June 7, 1965 27°44′N 74°11′W USS Wasp CVS-18 81.4 km
Gemini 5 August 29, 1965 29°47′N 69°45.4′W USS Lake Champlain CVS 39 170.3 km
Gemini 7 December 18, 1965 25°25.1′N 70°6.7′W USS Wasp CVS-18 11.8 km
Gemini 6A December 16, 1965 23°35′N 67°50′W USS Wasp CVS-18 12.9 km
Gemini 8 March 17, 1966 25°13.8′N 136°0′E USS Mason DD-852 (USS Boxer LPH 4**) 330 km
Gemini 9A June 6, 1966 27°52′N 75°0.4′W USS Wasp CVS-18 0.7 km
Gemini 10 July 21, 1966 26°44.7′N 71°57′W USS Guadalcanal LPH-7 6.2 km
Gemini 11 September 15, 1966 24°15.4′N 70°0′W USS Guam LPH-9 4.9 km
Gemini 12 November 15, 1966 24°35′N 69°57′W USS Wasp CVS-18 4.8 km
Apollo 1 March 7, 1967 Planned N of Puerto Rico USS Essex CVS-9** Planned
Apollo 7 October 22, 1968 27°38′N 64°09′W USS Essex CVS-9 3.5 km
Apollo 8 December 27, 1968 8°6′N 165°1′W USS Yorktown CVS-10 2.6 km
Apollo 9 March 13, 1969 23°15′N 67°56′W USS Guadalcanal LPH-7 5 km
Apollo 10 May 26, 1969 15°2′S 164°39′W USS Princeton CVS-37 2.4 km
Apollo 11 July 24, 1969 13°19′N 169°9′W USS Hornet CVS-12 3.1 km
Apollo 12 November 24, 1969 15°47′S 165°9′W USS Hornet CVS-12 3.7 km
Apollo 13 April 17, 1970 21°38′24″S, 165°21′42″W USS Iwo Jima LPH-2 1.9 km
Apollo 14 February 9, 1971 27°1′S 172°39′W USS New Orleans LPH-11 1.1 km
Apollo 15 August 7, 1971 26°7′N 158°8′W USS Okinawa LPH-3 1.9 km
Apollo 16 April 27, 1972 0°45′S 156°13′W USS Ticonderoga CVS-14 5.6 km
Apollo 17 December 19, 1972 17°53′S 166°7′W USS Ticonderoga CVS-14 1.9 km
Skylab 2 June 22, 1973 24°45′N 127°2′W USS Ticonderoga CVS-14 9.6 km
Skylab 3 September 25, 1973 30°47′N 120°29′W USS New Orleans LPH-11 8 km?
Skylab 4 February 8, 1974 31°18′N 119°48′W USS New Orleans LPH-11 8 km?
ASTP Apollo July 24, 1975 21°52′N 162°45′W USS New Orleans LPH-11 7.3 km


Planned recovery ship ** Crew Alan Shepard Backup Crew John Glenn Mission parameters Mass: 1,295 kg (apogee) Maximum Altitude: 187. ... The second Lake Champlain (CV-39) was laid down in drydock by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth Va. ... Mercury 4 was a Mercury program manned space mission launched on July 21, 1961 using a Redstone rocket. ... The second USS Randolph (CV-15) of the United States Navy was a Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier. ... Crew John Glenn Backup Crew M. Scott Carpenter Mission Parameters Mass: 1,352 kg Perigee: 159 km Apogee: 265 km Inclination: 32. ... The second USS Randolph (CV-15) of the United States Navy was a Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier. ... Alternate meaning: Mercury Seven Crew Scott Carpenter The original prime crew for Mercury Atlas-7 was Deke Slayton, however Slayton was controversially removed from all flight crew availability after the discovery of cardiac arrhythmia during a training run in the G-loading centrifuge. ... The fourth USS Intrepid (CV/CVA/CVS-11) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. ... Crew Wally Schirra Backup Crew Gordon Cooper Mission Parameters Mass:1370 kg Perigee: 153 km Apogee: 285 km Inclination: 32. ... The third USS Kearsarge (CV-33) (also CVA-33 and CVS-33) was a United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier. ... Crew Gordon Cooper Backup Crew Alan B. Shepard Mission Parameters Mass: 1,360. ... The third USS Kearsarge (CV-33) (also CVA-33 and CVS-33) was a United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier. ... Gemini 3 was a 1965 manned space flight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The fourth USS Intrepid (CV/CVA/CVS-11) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. ... Gemini 4 (officially Gemini IV) was a 1965 manned space flight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The ninth USS Wasp (CV-18) of the United States Navy was an Essex-class aircraft carrier. ... Gemini 5 (officially Gemini V) was a 1965 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The second Lake Champlain (CV-39) was laid down in drydock by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth Va. ... Gemini 7 (officially Gemini VII) was a 1965 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The ninth USS Wasp (CV-18) of the United States Navy was an Essex-class aircraft carrier. ... Gemini 6A (officially Gemini VI-A) was a 1965 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The ninth USS Wasp (CV-18) of the United States Navy was an Essex-class aircraft carrier. ... Gemini 8 (officially Gemini VIII) was a 1966 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The fifth USS Boxer (CV-21) (also CVA-21, CVS-21, LPH-4) was a United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier. ... Gemini 9A (officially Gemini IX-A) was a 1966 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The ninth USS Wasp (CV-18) of the United States Navy was an Essex-class aircraft carrier. ... Gemini 10 (officially Gemini X) was a 1966 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The second USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship, was launched by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 16 March 1963, sponsored by Mrs. ... Gemini 11 (officially Gemini XI) was a 1966 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The third USS Guam (LPH-9), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship, was laid down by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 15 November 1962; launched 22 August 1964; sponsored by Mrs. ... Gemini 12 (officially Gemini XII) was a 1966 manned spaceflight in NASAs Gemini program. ... The ninth USS Wasp (CV-18) of the United States Navy was an Essex-class aircraft carrier. ... Apollo One is the name given to the Apollo/Saturn 204 (AS-204) spacecraft after it was destroyed by fire during a training exercise on January 27, 1967, at Pad 34 atop a Saturn IB rocket. ... The seventh USS Essex (CV-9) (also CVA-9 and CVS-9) was a United States Navy aircraft carrier, the lead ship of her class. ... Apollo 7 was the first manned mission in the Apollo program to be launched. ... The seventh USS Essex (CV-9) (also CVA-9 and CVS-9) was a United States Navy aircraft carrier, the lead ship of her class. ... Apollo 8 was the second manned mission of the Apollo space program, in which Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to leave Earth orbit and to orbit around the Moon. ... USS Yorktown (CV/CVS-10) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, now a museum ship in South Carolina. ... Apollo 9 was the third manned mission in the Apollo program, a ten day earth-orbital mission launched 3 March 1969. ... The second USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship, was launched by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 16 March 1963, sponsored by Mrs. ... Apollo 10 was the fourth manned mission in the Apollo program, and the first (and only manned Saturn V) mission to launch from pad 39B. The mission included the second crew to orbit the Moon, and the test of the lunar module in lunar orbit. ... The fifth USS Princeton (CV-37) (also CVA-37, CVS-37, LPH-5) was a United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier (later refit into a Boxer-class LPH). ... The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned lunar landing. ... The eighth USS Hornet (CV/CVA/CVS-12) was originally named USS Kearsarge, but renamed in honor of the CV-8, which was lost in October of 1942. ... Apollo 12 was the sixth manned mission in the Apollo program and the second to land on the Moon. ... The eighth USS Hornet (CV/CVA/CVS-12) was originally named USS Kearsarge, but renamed in honor of the CV-8, which was lost in October of 1942. ... Apollo 13 was an American space mission, part of the Apollo program. ... USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) was the lead ship of her class—the first ship to be designed and built from the keel up as an amphibious assault ship. ... Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the Apollo program and the third mission to land on the moon. ... The third USS New Orleans (LPH-11), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship in the United States Navy. ... Apollo 15 was the ninth manned mission in the Apollo program and the fourth mission to land on the Moon. ... USS Okinawa (LPH–3) was laid down 1 April 1960 (15th anniversary of the invasion of Okinawa) by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; launched 19 August 1961; sponsored by Mrs. ... Apollo 16 was the tenth manned mission in the Apollo program and the fifth mission to land on the Moon. ... The fourth USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) of the United States Navy was an aircraft carrier. ... Apollo 17 was the eleventh manned space mission in the NASA Apollo program, and was the sixth and last mission to date to land on the Moon. ... The fourth USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) of the United States Navy was an aircraft carrier. ... Skylab 2 or SL-2 was the first human spaceflight mission to Skylab, the first U.S. orbital space station. ... The fourth USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) of the United States Navy was an aircraft carrier. ... Skylab 3 or SL-3 was the second manned mission to Skylab. ... The third USS New Orleans (LPH-11), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship in the United States Navy. ... Skylab 4 or SL-4 was the fourth Skylab mission. ... The third USS New Orleans (LPH-11), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship in the United States Navy. ... The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was the first joint flight of the US and Soviet space programs. ... The third USS New Orleans (LPH-11), an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship in the United States Navy. ...


Unmanned Spacecraft Splashdown Data

Spacecraft Landing Date Coordinates Recovery Ship Miss Distance
Jupiter AM-18 May 28, 1959 2,735 km SE Cape Canaveral USS Kiowa ATF-72  ? km
Mercury-Big Joe September 9, 1959 2,407 km SE Cape Canaveral USS Strong DD-758 925 km
Mercury-Little Joe 2 December 4, 1959 319 km SE Wallops Is, VA USS Borie DD-704  ? km
Mercury-Redstone 1A December 19, 1960 378.2 km SE Cape Canaveral USS Valley Forge CV-45 33 km
Mercury-Redstone 2 January 31, 1961 679 km SE Cape Canaveral USS Donner LSD-20 111 km
Mercury-Atlas 2 February 21, 1961 2,305 km SE Cape Canaveral USS Donner LSD-20 30? km
Mercury-Atlas 4 September 13, 1961 320 km E of Bermuda USS Decatur DD 936 63 km
Mercury-Atlas 5 November 29, 1961 472 km SE of Bermuda USS Stormes DD-780 48 km
Gemini 2 January 19, 1965 16°33.9′N 49°46.27′W USS Lake Champlain CVS 39 38 km
Apollo 201 February 26, 1966 8.18° S - 11.15° W USS Boxer LPH 4 72 km
Apollo 202 August 25, 1966 16.12° N - 168.9° E USS Hornet CVS-12 370 km
Gemini 2-MOL November 3, 1966 SE KSC near Ascension Is. USS La Salle LPD-3 13 km
Apollo 4 November 9, 1967 30.1° N - 172.53° W USS Bennington CVS-20 16 km
Apollo 6 April 4, 1968 27°40′N 157°59′W USS Okinawa LPH-3 80 km


Jupiter IRBM mobile missile The Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, first tested in 1957, was the United States second Intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). ... Big Joe ( Atlas 10-D) launched an unmanned boilerplate Mercury capsule from Cape Canaveral, FL. on September 9, 1959. ... For the Apollo program launch vehicle, see Little Joe II. The Little Joe 2 was an important test of the Mercury capsule because it was the first Little Joe animal flight, carrying the Rhesus monkey Sam (Macaca mulatta) close to the edge of space. ... Mercury- Redstone 1A (MR-1A) was launched on December 19, 1960 from LC-5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. ... Valley Forge (CV/CVA/CVS-45/LPH-8) a Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier was the first ship of the United States Navy named for Valley Forge, the 1777–78 winter encampment of General George Washingtons Continental Army. ... Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) was launched at 16:55 UTC on January 31, 1961 from LC-5 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. ... Launch of MA-2 (NASA) Mercury- Atlas 2 (MA-2) was launched unmanned on February 21, 1961 at 14:10 UTC, from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. ... MA-4 Launch (NASA) Mercury-Atlas 4 was an unmanned spaceflight of the Mercury program. ... Mercury-Atlas 5 was an American unmanned spaceflight of the Mercury program. ... Gemini 2 was an unmanned flight in the U.S. Gemini program. ... The second Lake Champlain (CV-39) was laid down in drydock by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth Va. ... AS-201 (or SA-201) was the first flight of the Saturn IB launch vehicle. ... The fifth USS Boxer (CV-21) (also CVA-21, CVS-21, LPH-4) was a United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier. ... AS-202 (or SA-202) was a sub-orbital test flight of the Saturn IB and Command and Service Module. ... The eighth USS Hornet (CV/CVA/CVS-12) was originally named USS Kearsarge, but renamed in honor of the CV-8, which was lost in October of 1942. ... Manned Orbiting Laboratory early 1960 conceptual drawing that did not use the Gemini spacecraft. ... USS La Salle (LPD-3/AGF-3), built as a Raleigh-class amphibious transport dock, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the town and county in Illinois that was in turn named after Rene Robert Chevalier de La Salle, one of the most... Apollo 4 was the first unmanned flight of the Saturn V launch vehicle. ... The second USS Bennington (CV-20) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. ... Apollo 6, launched in April 1968, was the Apollo programs second and last unmanned test flight of its Saturn V launch vehicle. ... USS Okinawa (LPH–3) was laid down 1 April 1960 (15th anniversary of the invasion of Okinawa) by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; launched 19 August 1961; sponsored by Mrs. ...



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