SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronauts have returned to Earth.
The four astronauts at SpaceX Dragon the capsule, named Endurance, blasted off late Saturday (March 11), ending a five-month mission to International Space Station. NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s cosmonaut Anna Kikina return to the capsule, which plunged into darkness after streaking over the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa Bay, Florida at 9:02 pm EST ( 0202 GMT on March 12).
“Thank you SpaceXthat was one heck of a ride!” Mann radioed SpaceX’s mission control team after the splashdown. “We’re happy to be home.”
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The four astronauts spent 157 days in space during their mission to the space station in a mission that marked the first space flight for Mann, Cassada and Kikina. This is the fifth flight for Wakata, who now has 505 days in space under his belt. SpaceX recovery teams quickly arrived on the scene in speedboats from the company’s recovery ship SS Shannon (named for astronaut Shannon Walker who flew on SpaceX’s Crew-1 flight for NASA).
Endurance removed from station earlier Saturday at 2:20 am EST (0720 GMT), then performed a series of maneuvers to put itself on course for atmospheric re-entry. The safe splashdown under parachutes concluded SpaceX’s fifth operational mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, replacing crews on the space station with newly arrived members of Crew-6.
NASA officials said the Crew-5 Dragon lit up the night sky as a brilliant streak of light as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.
The Crew-5 mission achieved a pair of historic firsts, becoming Mann the first Native American woman to reach space and Kikina the first Russian to fly in a private American spacecraft. Additionally, the mission marks Wakata’s fifth return from space — a Japanese record — with Crew Dragon the third crew-rated craft he has flown.
It is possible, by the way, for a fifth passenger to also go home on the Endurance. In mid-December 2022, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station there is a leak and lost all its coolant, apparently after experiencing a meteoroid strike. That Soyuz will be the trip home for three spaceflyers, including NASA’s Frank Rubio.
In January, Endurance temporarily equipped an extra person — Rubio — in case an emergency evacuation of the ISS was necessary. (The other two Soyuz the crewmembers, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, would have boarded the wounded Soyuz home; Russian space officials have determined that the spacecraft can safely carry two people, but not three, without coolant.)
The changes to Endurance were withdrawn last month, however, after the Russian space agency Roscosmos launched a replacement Soyuz to serve as a ride home for Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin.
SpaceX’s Crew-6 arrives at the orbiting lab on March 3 for a six-month stay, carrying NASA astronauts Warren “Woody” Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi aboard the Dragon capsule Endeavour.
Crew-6 was also a historic mission: Al-Neyadi was the first astronaut from the UAE to fly a long-duration space mission.
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