SpaceX’s Dragon capsule safely returns Crew 3 astronauts to Earth

The astronauts who flew to the ISS as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission are back on Earth after nearly six months in the orbiting laboratory. They splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance, which made its debut flight with the same astronauts in November 2021, on May 6 at 12:43 a.m. ET, and NASA captured a nighttime video quite spectacular of the event. .

As you can see, the Endurance capsule looks particularly bright in the infrared, probably because it reached a temperature of around 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit upon entering the atmosphere. The recovery team removed NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, as well as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, from the capsule shortly after splashdown. Marshburn is the only veteran astronaut of the four and completed his fifth spacewalk during the mission. It was the first of three other ISS missions, with Maurer being the second ESA astronaut to fly aboard a Dragon capsule.

The Crew 3 astronauts spent 177 days in orbit and started their stay strong. Shortly after arriving at the station, all astronauts on board had to seek safety in their transport ship when the ISS passed dangerously close to an orbital debris field. The US State Department later said the debris came from a Russian missile test that destroyed one of the country’s own satellites.

SpaceX’s next manned mission to the ISS is scheduled to launch in September with two NASA astronauts, a JAXA astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut. It will be NASA’s fifth commercial crew manned flight so far after Crew-4 launched to the station in April.

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