On 8. November four astronauts returned to Earth successfully. They landed on the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Their arrival back to Earth brought an end to a more than six-month-long stay at ISS. This made way for another crew of four to launch to the ISS.
The crew includes –
- NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough
- From the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide
- From the European Space Agency French astronaut Thomas Pesquet
On April 23rd the group was launched to the ISS on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The crew dragon was hoisted out of the water with the help of SpaceX personnel on a recovery ship and helped the crew leave the vehicle one by one. This is the 3rd time SpaceX launched people to ISS and brought them back to Earth. Through the NASA Commercial Crew Program, such trips are part of SpaceX’s contract with NASA. In May 2020, SpaceX launched its first crew of two to the station. SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission followed that flight in November 2020.
Now that Crew-2 is back on the ground, soon Crew-3 will go on the mission. Another crew of four is scheduled to launch inside a Crew Dragon capsule on November 10th at 9:03 PM ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew includes –
- NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn
- German astronaut Matthias Maurer
The crew will replace the Crew-2 astronauts, and they are on the mission for six months. On 31st, the Crew-3 was supposed to launch before the Crew-2 left ISS. So that Crew-2 could give them briefly and hand over duties. The Crew-3 mission suffered a series of delays. Bad weather at the launch site pushed back the 1st launch. Then one of the crew members suffered a minor medical issue, so there were further delays. Due to these reasons, the Crew-2 were back on Earth before Crew-3 arrived at the ISS.
In orbit, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule can last up to 210 days. The Crew-2 capsule’s limit didn’t end until November 19th. But NASA decided to bring Crew-2 back because of winter getting worst. NASA astronauts are still there on ISS to help ease the Crew-3 astronauts’ transition. From the ISS, the Crew-2 undocked at 2:05 PM ET on November 8th. One of the touchscreens needed a reboot when the astronauts 1st got inside their vehicle.
After astronauts left the ISS, they spent a few hours flying around the ISS in a circular pattern. This allowed the astronauts to get pictures of the ISS from different vantage points. The Crew Dragon began drifting away from the ISS once that fly-around was complete, putting it on its course back to Earth.
The astronauts landed on Earth safely, but there was a brief scary moment. The moment happened when the Crew Dragon’s parachutes deployed just before splashdown to lower the capsule down into the water slowly. Three of the four parachutes expanded typically, but one chute inflated much more slowly. NASA has said it will try to find out what has happened.