SpaceX Dragon capsule splashes down with Crew-5 astronauts off Florida coast
SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronauts have returned to Earth.
The four astronauts on the SpaceX Dragon capsule, named Endurance, splashed down late Saturday (March 11), wrapping up a five-month mission to the International Space Station. Returning on the capsule were NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Anna Kikina of Russia, who splashed down in darkness after streaking over the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa Bay, Florida at 9:02 p.m. EST (0202 GMT on March 12).
“Thank you SpaceX, that was one heck of a ride!” Mann radioed to SpaceX’s mission control team after 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 on a mission that marked the first spaceflight ever for Mann, Cassada and Kikina. It was the fifth flight for Wakata, who now has 505 days in space under his belt. SpaceX recovery teams arrived on the scene quickly in fast boats from the company’s recovery ship S.S. Shannon (named for astronaut Shannon Walker who flew on SpaceX’s Crew-1 flight for NASA).
Endurance undocked from the station earlier on Saturday at 2:20 a.m. EST (0720 GMT), then performed a series of maneuvers to put itself on course for atmospheric reentry. The safe splashdown under parachutes wrapped up SpaceX’s fifth operational mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, swapping personnel aboard the space station with the recently 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 reentered Earth’s atmosphere.
The Crew-5 mission achieved a pair of historic firsts, with Mann becoming the first Native American woman to reach space and Kikina the first Russian to fly on a private American spacecraft. Additionally, the mission marked Wakata’s fifth return from space — a Japanese record — with Crew Dragon the third crew-rated craft he’s flown on.
It would have been possible, by the way, for a fifth passenger to come home on Endurance as well. In mid-December 2022, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station sprang a leak and lost all of its coolant, apparently after suffering a meteoroid strike. That Soyuz was to be the ride home for three spaceflyers, including NASA’s Frank Rubio.
In January, Endurance was temporarily outfitted to carry an extra person — Rubio — in case an emergency evacuation of the ISS were required. (The other two Soyuz crewmembers, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, would have ridden the wounded Soyuz home; Russian space officials had determined the spacecraft could safely carry two people, but not three, without coolant.)
The Endurance modifications were removed last month, however, after Russia’s space agency Roscosmos launched a replacement Soyuz to serve as the ride home for Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin.
SpaceX’s Crew-6 arrived at the orbiting lab on March 3 for a six-month stay, delivering NASA astronauts Warren “Woody” Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi on the Dragon capsule Endeavour.
Crew-6 is a historic mission as well: Al-Neyadi is the first astronaut from the UAE to fly a long-duration space mission.
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