This evening, a crew of four astronauts has successfully returned to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule from the international space station. They splashed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola.
This brings an end to a six-month-long stay aboard and it paves the way for the launch of another crew of four to the ISS.
On April 23rd, the crew containing two NASA astronauts, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide was launched to the space station.
When the crew splashed down, a SpaceX flight controller declared “On behalf of SpaceX, welcome home to planet Earth.”
SpaceX has sent a recovery ship to hoist the Crew Dragon out of the water.
This is the third time that SpaceX has safely brought its crew home after launching then into the International Space Station. These trips are under SpaceX’s contract with NASA under Commercial Crew Program.
In May 2020, SpaceX launched its first tested flight by sending its crew to the station to prove that its Crew Dragon capsule was safe. That flight was followed by SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, sending another crew for a six-month rotation to the ISS.
Now with Crew-2 back on the ground, SpaceX will pivot to its next launch, named Crew-3. This crew will consist of four — including NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Thomas Marshburn, and German astronaut Matthias Maurer.
The Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, November 10th at 9:03 PM ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. The latest crew will replace Crew-2 astronauts and do another six-month rotation.
While the Crew-3 was due to launch on October 31st before the Crew-2 left the ISS. That way, the outgoing crew could brief the newcomers and hand off their duties before heading home.
However, the Crew-3 launch suffered a series of delays due to bad weather and some medical issue which prompted NASA to delay the launch. Because of these setbacks, the Crew-2 astronauts are back before the arrival of Crew-3.
However, NASA still has some astronauts onboard the ISS to help ease the Crew-3’s transition.
In April, Mark Vande Hei was launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket and he is not scheduled to arrive home until March 2022. This will mark a year-long stay in orbit.
Joel Montalbano, manager of the ISS at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in a press briefing, his presence on board “definitely helped us and helped me feel more comfortable in the decision to land first before we launch.”