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NASA targets today for Crew-5 astronauts’ journey home

SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronauts are aiming to depart the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, bringing to an end a five-month stay aboard the facility.

The current plan is for NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, along with Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s Anna Kikina, to undock from the space station aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft at 5:05 p.m. ET before splashing down at 9:25 p.m. ET on Friday, March 10.

NASA and SpaceX had originally targeted Thursday morning for the Crew Dragon’s undocking, but high winds at the splashdown site prompted the mission team to delay the departure.

The space agency said that while it’s now aiming for Thursday afternoon, it’s continuing to evaluate the weather conditions and so the timings may still be subject to change.

The space agency shared a short video featuring some of the highlights from Crew-5’s time aboard the space-based laboratory over the last 154 days.

After months aboard the @Space_Station, the astronauts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission are returning home! https://t.co/TMwCLtFCey pic.twitter.com/BLrzIUETfq

— ISS Research (@ISS_Research) March 8, 2023

In the video, Cassada says: “I’m often asked, what is it we’re going to learn [while we’re aboard the ISS], and I know that if we already know what we’re going to find, then there’s no reason to be doing the science. The reason we’re doing the science is because we don’t know what we’re going to find, but I know it’s going to be awfully, awfully cool.”

NASA put it a little more dryly: “During their time aboard the orbiting laboratory, these crew members contributed to scientific investigations and technology demonstrations to help prepare humans for future space exploration missions and generate benefits for humanity back on Earth.”

Besides the science work and occasional spacewalk, the crewmates also witnessed a highly unusual event in December when a docked Soyuz spacecraft sprung a leak, putting the capsule out of action. The event prompted Russia to send up a replacement ride for the two Russian cosmonauts and a single NASA astronaut who used the now-damaged spacecraft to reach the ISS last September.

Crew-5’s departure will free up a little space aboard the station. Following Crew-6’s arrival at the end of last week, there have been 11 astronauts living and working on the facility. The usual number of inhabitants is around six.

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