The four-member crew of NASA’S SpaceX Crew-5 mission returned to Earth after spending 5 months on the International Space Station. The Endurance crew had left the International Space Station at around 2:20 a.m. Eastern Time and landed in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida on Saturday around 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
The crew consisted of four members, which include Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, and Anna Kikina. Mann and Cassada are NASA astronauts, Wakata is a JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut, and Kikina is a cosmonaut of Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency).
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The SpaceX Crew-5 mission
Endurance is a Crew Dragon spacecraft built by Musk’s SpaceX. The spacecraft is operated under NASA for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The spacecraft launched from Earth in October 2022 for a long stay of up to 6 months on the International Space Station.
Regarding the mission, NASA said on its official blog, before the initial launch, that the Endurance crew will focus on conducting new scientific studies on space exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. The blog added that the mission will also focus on research and experiments that would benefit life on earth.
Some of the planned experiments of the crew included printing human organs in space, facilitating research in heart disease, and understanding fuel systems’ operation on the moon.
After docking on the International Space Station in October 2022 , the Endurance crew was welcomed by the 7-member crew of Expedotion68, which is the 68th long stay expedition to the International Space Station. Also present on the space station were the crew members of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission, which undocked and left the station later on October 14, 2022.
SpaceX Crew-5 marked the first space flight for Mann, Cassada, and Kikina and the fifth space flight for Wakana.
The spacecraft landed on the west coast of Florida on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET
Before departure from the International Space Station, Cassada said in his departure remarks that the endurance crew did six spacewalks, built infrastructure for two more solar arrays, and fixed an old solar array. He further added that the crew had five cargo vehicles visit.
The SpaceX Endurance spacecraft is fully automated to operate processes such as docking, undocking, and flying the spacecraft back to Earth. Mann remarked that the Dragon spacecraft is a highly self-operated one. She went on to say that the crew is trained thoroughly to take over the command of the spacecraft in case of emergencies, but in an ideal scenario, the spacecraft is capable of all the primary functions such as “undocking, the phasing, re-entry, and landing.”
The crew landed on Earth on Saturday on the west coast of Florida. A SpaceX crew was stationed near the landing site of Endurance. The crew latched the Endurance spacecraft to a company recovery ship.
Once the spacecraft’s hatch was opened, all four crew members were assisted out of the spacecraft and put on stretchers to help them readjust to Earth’s gravity.
The crew members are in the process of initial medical checkups, after which they will be flown to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. There they will be debriefed regarding the five-month mission and also be reunited with friends and family.