After more than five months in space, four astronauts landed safely in the Gulf of Mexico. They were aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon, being used for NASA’s Endurance mission that was poised to make groundbreaking discoveries about fundamental properties of the Earth.
After a nine-hour flight, the spacecraft landed on the waters near Tampa. The crew members, which included a Japanese astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut, spent exactly 157 days at the International Space Station since last October.
The crew members, who included NASA’s Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to fly in space checked out of the space station early Saturday. About 19 hours later, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule reached the sea as the crew members waited for their return.
The Crew-5 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its return to Earth follows on the heels of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 launch, which docked to the station on March 3, beginning another science expedition.
Anna Kivna, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first woman to fly on a US spacecraft in two decades. Also aboard the vessel were NASA’s Josh Cassada and Koichi Wakata, a Japanese astronaut who has participated in four previous spaceflights. Teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels retrieved the spacecraft and spacefarers. After returning to shore, the crew reached NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Earlier in the week, high wind and waves in the splashdown zones made it impossible for the astronauts to start their journey homeward. Their replacements arrived more than a week ago.
The conditions of the spacecraft were harsh due to the frictional heat that caused temperatures outside to rise to around 1,930 degrees Celsius. To prevent the vessel from going down too fast, two sets of parachutes were deployed.
The remaining crew members of the space station are Russians, Americans, and an individual from the UAE.