A crew of four astronauts has returned safely to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS), splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, late on Saturday, March 13. The Crew-5 astronauts traveled in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and made a parachute-assisted splashdown at 9:02 p.m. ET (6:02 p.m. PT), at which point, they were picked up using a recovery ship and taken back to Tampa to catch a plane to Houston.
The crew consisted of NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, plus Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. The four have spent nearly six months on the orbiting space station, working on projects including scientific research and spacewalks to upgrade space station hardware.
“Welcome home, Crew-5! This international crew has been conducting critical science experiments and technology demonstrations on the International Space Station that will help prepare us for future deep space missions and pave the way for our return to the Moon,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement. “Each advancement these explorers make is not an achievement for one, but a giant leap for all of humanity.”
The Crew-5 team had launched from Earth in October last year, carried in the same Crew Dragon spacecraft and launched by a Falcon 9 rocket. In total, the crew spent 156.5 days in space, according to NASA, and traveled 66,577,531 miles during that time.
The departure of this crew frees up some space on the ISS, which had been rather busy with 11 people on board until Crew-5 left. Now, the Expedition 68 crew consists of four astronauts recently arrived as Crew-6. Three more crewmembers are waiting to depart on a new Russian Soyuz spacecraft that was launched empty after their previous Soyuz sprang a serious coolant leak and was deemed to be potentially unsafe for humans to travel in due to the high temperatures that would be experienced when traveling back through Earth’s atmosphere.
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