Four astronauts have successfully returned to Earth in the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft today, thus ending their six-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS). After exiting the International Space Station early Thursday morningthe crew plunged into Earth’s atmosphere before falling under parachutes off the coast of Florida at 12:43 a.m. ET.
On board the Crew Dragon were three NASA astronauts — Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Baron — as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency. The astronauts, as part of a mission called Crew-3, were launched into space on the same Crew Dragon back in November. Since docking with the International Space Station, they have been living and working in the orbiting laboratory, performing science experiments and maintaining the station through spacewalks.
The Crew-3 astronauts had an eventful stay in space, too. Shortly after their arrival at the International Space Station, Russia destroyed one of its satellites with a ground-based missile, Create a cloud of debris that initially threatened Space station safety. Immediately after the satellite was destroyed, the crew of 3 and the Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station had to take shelter inside their spacecraft in case the resulting debris destroyed the space station and needed to make a quick getaway. Fortunately for the station’s residents, the debris did not harm the ISS, and the crew was able to return to a normal work schedule.
A few months after that incident, Russia invaded Ukraine, increasing tensions between the United States and Russia on the ground. This led many to question the stability of The International Space Station Partnership between NASA and RussiaThe state space company, Roscosmos, has had concerns that operations aboard the space station might be affected. In the end, Crew 3 astronauts continued their work as planned with their Russian colleagues, and they welcomed a new crew of Russian cosmonauts to the station in March. While the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, continues to hint on A possible end to the Russian International Space Station agreementNASA Administrator Bill Nelson assured Congress on May 3 that business as usual aboard the International Space Station and that Russia has not yet withdrawn from the partnership.
Crew-3’s safe return marks the end of another routine human spaceflight mission to the International Space Station for both SpaceX and NASA. SpaceX has a contract with NASA to periodically send astronauts to and from the International Space Station, Part of an initiative called the Commercial Crew Program. The Crew-3 mission was SpaceX’s third operational mission to the International Space Station for NASA as well as the eighth time the company has launched astronauts into space.
Now that Crew-3 is safely back on Earth, the next SpaceX and NASA mission will begin in earnest. On April 27, three NASA astronauts and an Italian astronaut With the European Space Agency launched to the International Space Station on another Crew Dragon flight, part of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission. Crew 3 astronauts were on board to welcome them and help introduce them to the International Space Station. Crew-4 astronauts are scheduled to remain on the International Space Station until the fall.
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