SpaceX capsule splashes down off Florida, bringing 4 astronauts home

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050622-splash4.jpg Recovery crews marque their mode to the Crew Dragon Endurance soon aft the capsule splashed down successful the Gulf of Mexico aboriginal Friday to adjacent retired a 176-day mission. NASA/SpaceX

One time aft undocking from the International Space Station, 4 astronauts plunged backmost to Earth aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule aboriginal Friday, streaking crossed confederate Mexico to an on-target splashdown successful the Gulf of Mexico westbound of Tampa to adjacent retired a six-month mission.

With Crew-3 commandant Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn monitoring the automated descent, the Crew Dragon "Endurance" fired its braking thrusters for astir 8 minutes starting astatine 11:53 p.m. EDT, slowing the vessel by astir 120 mph to driblet retired of orbit.

After a 38-minute freefall, the capsule slammed into the discernible ambiance astatine astir 5 miles per second, streaking precocious supra confederate Mexico and retired implicit the Gulf connected a southwest to northeast trajectory, rapidly decelerating successful a blaze of atmospheric friction.

Eight minutes later, close connected time, the Crew Dragon's 4 main parachutes unfurled and afloat inflated, lowering the capsule to a creaseless splashdown astatine 12:43 a.m. to adjacent retired its maiden voyage.

050622-raja.jpg Commander Raja Chari smiles and waves to enactment crews aft being helped from the Crew Dragon spacecraft. All 4 astronauts were successful bully spirits and appeared to beryllium successful bully wellness arsenic they began the process of re-adjusting to gravity aft six months successful space. NASA/SpaceX

"Thanks for letting america instrumentality Endurance connected its shakedown cruise," Chari radioed formation controllers. "Looking guardant to watching galore much flights of Endurance successful the future. It was a large ride. Enjoyed moving with the NASA and SpaceX teams. Thanks for getting america up to the abstraction presumption and backmost safely."

A infinitesimal later, helium joked: "Only 1 complaint. These h2o bottles are ace heavy!"

SpaceX crews stationed adjacent with high-speed betterment boats rapidly raced to the mildly bobbing capsule to cheque connected the unit portion a institution vessel moved successful to propulsion the Crew Dragon connected board.

Chari, Marshburn, submariner-turned-astronaut Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer were carried retired 1 astatine a clip connected stretchers, modular process for crews returning to Earth and the uncomfortable tug of gravity aft a fractional twelvemonth successful weightlessness.

spacex-crew-3.jpg The Crew Dragon astronauts grin and question arsenic SpaceX technicians unfastened the capsule's hatch to assistance them retired of the spacecraft aft splashdown successful the Gulf of Mexico. Left to right: European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer and NASA crewmates Thomas Marshburn, commandant Raja Chari and Kayla Barron. NASA

All 4 looked successful bully shape, smiling and waving to the ship's unit arsenic they were carried wrong for archetypal aesculapian checks. SpaceX was expected to alert them to enactment via chopper aboriginal successful the greeting for a formation backmost to Houston and the Johnson Space Center aboard a NASA jet.

"I deliberation we're each truly looking guardant to seeing our loved ones, our household and friends connected the crushed who were truthful instrumental successful supporting america passim our lives and getting america to this point," Barron, making her archetypal flight, said during an orbital quality league past month.

"And then, of course, we're starting to deliberation astir each the antithetic things we mightiness privation to devour and portion erstwhile we get home."

Left down successful orbit were their replacements - Crew 4 commandant Kjell Lindgren, aviator Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti - and 3 Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov.

050622-splash1.jpg An infrared presumption of the Crew Dragon "Endurance" splashing down successful the Gulf of Mexico westbound of Tampa, Florida, astatine 12:43 a.m. EDT. NASA

Lindgren and his crewmates arrived astatine the abstraction presumption past Wednesday, enjoying a one-week "direct handover" with their Crew-3 colleagues, who showed them the ins and outs of presumption operations earlier undocking aboriginal Thursday to statesman a 23-and-a-half hr travel backmost to Earth.

With splashdown Friday, Chari and institution spent 176 days 2 hours and 40 minutes disconnected the satellite since motorboat from the Kennedy Space Center past Nov. 10, logging 2,832 implicit orbits covering 75 cardinal miles.

Over the people of the mission, Marshburn, a three-flight veteran, and Maurer participated successful 1 spacewalk each portion Barron and Chari carried retired two. Eight spacecraft arrived astatine the presumption during their enactment and 7 departed, including a Crew Dragon carrying the archetypal all-commercial unit to the laboratory analyzable past month.

"We've had a batch of amusive showing them around, showing them however to unrecorded and enactment successful the abstraction station," Marshburn said earlier. "They've been large crewmates, they've been precise benignant and gracious with america arsenic well. And truthful it's been a fantastic week."

But getting location was tops connected the crew's docket Friday.

"I can't hold to spot my woman and kids, giving them each hugs," Chari said. "I get goosebumps conscionable reasoning astir that moment. Just seeing the pictures of my kids, however overmuch they've grown successful six months since they're younger, it's beauteous astonishing and makes you recognize however overmuch you've missed."

In: Spacewalk International Space Station NASA

William Harwood

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Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. abstraction programme full-time since 1984, archetypal arsenic Cape Canaveral bureau main for United Press International and present arsenic a advisor for CBS News. He covered 129 abstraction shuttle missions, each interplanetary formation since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercialized and subject launches. Based astatine the Kennedy Space Center successful Florida, Harwood is simply a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."

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