SpaceX successfully returns four astronauts from the International Space Station

Four astronauts have successfully returned to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft today, ending their six-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS). After undocking from the ISS early Thursday morning, the crew dove into Earth’s atmosphere before diving under parachutes off Florida at 12:43 a.m. ET.

On board the Crew Dragon were three NASA astronauts – Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron – as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency. The astronauts, who were part of a mission called Crew-3, launched into space in the same Crew Dragon in November. Since docking with the ISS, they live and work in the orbiting laboratory, conduct science experiments, and maintain the station through spacewalks.

The Crew-3 astronauts also had a rather rocky time in space. Shortly after arriving at the ISS, Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile, creating a cloud of debris that initially threatened the integrity of the space station. Immediately after the destruction of the satellite, the astronauts of crew 3 and the Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS had to take shelter inside their spacecraft in case the resulting debris damaged the space station and they would have had to escape quickly. Fortunately for the inhabitants of the station, the debris did not damage the ISS and the crew was able to resume a normal work schedule.

A few months after this incident, Russia then invaded Ukraine, increasing tensions between the United States and Russia on Earth. This led many to question the stability of the ISS partnership between NASA and the Russian state space company, Roscosmos, and there were fears that operations aboard the space station could be affected. Eventually, the Crew-3 astronauts continued their work as planned with their Russian colleagues, and they even welcomed a new crew of Russian cosmonauts to the station in March. While the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, continues to hint at a possible end to the agreement with Russia on the ISS, the administrator of NASA, Bill Nelson, assured Congress on May 3 that everything is was passing as usual on board the ISS and that Russia had not yet withdrawn from the ISS. Partnership.

The safe return of Crew-3 marks the end of another routine human spaceflight mission to the ISS for SpaceX and NASA. SpaceX has a contract with NASA to periodically send astronauts to and from the International Space Station, under an initiative called the Commercial Crew Program. Crew-3 was SpaceX’s third operational mission to the ISS for NASA as well as the eighth time the company has launched astronauts into space.

Now that Crew-3 is safely back on Earth, SpaceX and NASA’s next mission is about to begin in earnest. On April 27, three NASA astronauts and an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency launched to the ISS on another Crew Dragon, as part of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission. Crew-3 astronauts were on board to welcome them and help familiarize them with the ISS. Crew-4 astronauts are expected to remain on the ISS until the fall.


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