SpaceX capsule Endurance returns NASA astronauts safely home
Four crew members aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endurance landed off of Florida's Gulf coast on Saturday. The astronauts were returning safe and sound from a five-month science mission on the International Space Station.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrated their return by welcoming them back on Twitter.
Yay!! https://t.co/6vdGdJUEC3— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 12, 2023
The capsule parachuted into waters off the coast of Tampa just after 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT). It had onboard two NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut, and one Russian cosmonaut.
The descent was a roughly nine-hour flight from the orbital research lab after being in the ISS for about five months. The Crew-5 team took off from Florida on October 6 to undertake routine science aboard the station.
Amongst the team were cosmonaut Anna Kikina, 38, who became the first Russian to fly on an American spacecraft in 20 years, and NASA flight commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, 45, the first Native American woman sent into orbit.
NASA pilot Josh Cassada, 49, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, 59, were also on the mission, but they had four previous missions under their belt.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, a circular pod designed to launch atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, undocked from the space station early on Saturday morning and re-entered Earth's atmosphere around 8:11 p.m. EST (0111 GMT Sunday). On its trip, it withstood frictional heat that sent temperatures outside the capsule rising to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,930 degrees Celsius).
Two sets of parachutes were deployed to monitor the capsule's descent and allow it to reach a speed of 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour) just before splashdown.
The mission marked SpaceX's sixth crewed flight for NASA since its Crew Dragon spacecraft first flew humans in May 2020. SpaceX has the notable distinction of restoring crewed launches from American soil after nearly a decade of U.S. dependence on Russia's Soyuz program for space station flights.
In September of 2022, NASA's Frank Rubio became the first U.S. astronaut to launch to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz rocket since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Since then, Kikina has been the first Russian to launch into space from U.S. soil. Both were already contracted to launch before tensions escalated earlier this year between the West and Russia.
The system, which uses Tesla technology, went online earlier than originally planned due to predicted energy shortages.