The astronauts who flew to the International Space Station as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission have returned to Earth after nearly six months on the orbiting laboratory.
They landed safely in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance, which flew for the first time with the same astronauts in November 2021, on May 6th at 12:43 am ET — and NASA has captured a pretty spectacular night video of the event.
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As you can see, the Endurance capsule glows brightly in infrared, which is most likely due to the fact that it entered the atmosphere at a temperature of around 3500 degrees Fahrenheit.
And… splashdown! Dragon has safely made it home with precious cargo aboard: four #Crew3 astronauts!
Now they wait for the recovery vehicle, which is named after Shannon Walker, mission specialist for the first crewed @SpaceX mission to the @Space_Station: pic.twitter.com/VDDXdsxkbH
— NASA (@NASA) May 6, 2022
Soon after splashdown, the recovery team extracted NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, as well as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, from the capsule.
Marshburn is the mission’s only veteran astronaut, and he completed his fifth spacewalk during the mission. Maurer was only the second ESA astronaut to fly aboard a Dragon capsule, and it was their first ISS mission.
The #Crew3 mission is officially complete!
After launching from Kennedy on Nov. 10, 2021, @SpaceX‘s Dragon Endurance splashed down off the coast of Florida today at 12:43am ET, bringing @Astro_Raja, @AstroMarshburn, Kayla Barron, and @Astro_Matthias home: https://t.co/wGNaM6g04x pic.twitter.com/48fiA9sNca
— NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) May 6, 2022
The Crew-3 astronauts spent 177 days in space and began their mission with a bang. When the ISS passed dangerously close to a field of orbital debris, all of the astronauts on board were forced to seek safety on their transport craft.
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The debris was later identified as the result of a Russian missile test that destroyed one of the country’s own satellites, according to the US State Department.
SpaceX next manned mission to the International Space Station is set to launch in September, with two NASA astronauts, one JAXA astronaut, and one Russian cosmonaut aboard. After Crew-4 launched to the station in April, this will be the fifth crewed NASA Commercial Crew flight.