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SpaceX’s Crew-3 astronauts wrap up six-month ISS mission

SpaceX’s Crew-3 astronauts are fast approaching the end of their half-year stay aboard the International Space Station

NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, along with Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency (ESA), are scheduled to begin their journey back to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft at just after 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT) on Wednesday, May 4.

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“Completing Dragon suit checkouts & a view of our SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endurance,” Maurer tweeted on Sunday. “Soon it’s time to head back to Earth & I’m looking forward to home, but also getting a bit wistful that it’ll soon be time to say goodbye.”

Completing Dragon suit checkouts & a view of our @SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endurance 🐉🚀 Soon it's time to head back to Earth & I'm looking forward to home, but also getting a bit wistful that it'll soon be time to say goodbye. #Crew3 #CosmicKiss

— Matthias Maurer (@astro_matthias) May 1, 2022

Crew-3 blasted to space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on November 11, 2021, before arriving at the ISS later the same day. For all except Marshburn, this was the astronauts’ first orbital mission.

During their time aboard the ISS, the four-person crew worked on numerous scientific experiments, performed spacewalks for maintenance and upgrade work, communicated with earthlings via a series of special events to share their experiences of life in microgravity conditions, and also found time to enjoy the exclusive views from surely the most exciting living quarters ever built.

The departure of Crew-3 will free up some space inside the orbital outpost. Following the arrival of four Crew-4 astronauts last week, the number of ISS inhabitants increased to 11, five more than the usual crewmember count.

It’s been a busy few weeks at the station. Besides the arrival of Crew-4 and the imminent departure of Crew-3, the ISS also recently hosted NASA’s first crew of private astronauts. Organized by Texas-based Axiom Space and using SpaceX transportation hardware, the Ax-1 mission reportedly cost each of the participants around $55 million.

As for the Crew-3 astronauts, they’ll soon be zipping through space in their Crew Dragon capsule, entering the atmosphere at high speed before performing a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida.

Asked recently what he was most looking forward to when he gets home, Maurer said: “I’m looking forward to seeing my family and my friends again, but also to being outside, smelling planet Earth … the richness of nature.”

Asked what he was least looking forward to, Maurer replied: “Gravity,” pointing out that adapting to it may be a challenge.

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