SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts return safely to Earth

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts have made a safe return to Earth aboard the Dragon Endurance spacecraft, completing the journey to the International Space Station.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts aboard the Dragon Endurance spacecraft safely landed on Friday, 26 May 2022, in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The Crew-3 astronauts include NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer. This landing marked the completion of the ESA’s third long-duration commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. The international crew of four spent a total of 177 days in orbit.

Who are NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts?

The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 12:43 am EDT. Teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels recovered the spacecraft and astronauts. After returning to shore, the astronauts will fly back to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“NASA’s partnership with SpaceX has again empowered us to deliver a crew safely to the space station and back, enabling groundbreaking science that will help our astronauts travel farther out into the cosmos than ever before. This mission is just one more example that we are truly in the golden era of commercial spaceflight,” explained NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson. “Kayla, Raja, Tom, and Matthias, thank you for your service and welcome home.”

SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts
From left to right, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthais Maurer, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron, are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft onboard the SpaceX Shannon recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, Friday, 6 May 2022. Maurer, Marshburn, Chari, and Barron are returning after 177 days in space as part of Expeditions 66 and 67 aboard the International Space Station. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The Crew-3 mission

The Crew-3 mission launched on 10 November 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Nearly 24-hours after lift-off, 11 November, Endurance docked to the Harmony module’s forward space station port. The astronauts undocked from the same port at 1:05 am, 5 May 2022, to begin the trip home.

Barron, Chari, Marshburn, and Maurer travelled 75,060,792 miles during their mission, spent 175 days aboard the space station, and completed 2,832 orbits around Earth. Marshburn has logged 339 days in space over his three flights. The Crew-3 mission was the first spaceflight for Barron, Chari, and Maurer.

Spacewalks

Throughout their mission, the SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities and technology demonstrations. In addition, they conducted three spacewalks to perform station maintenance and upgrades outside the space station. This brought the total number of spacewalks for Marshburn to five, while Chari and Barron have each completed two, and Maurer one.

Mission objectives

The Crew-3 mission built on previous work investigating how fibres grow in microgravity. The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts used hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without soil or other growth material, captured images of their retinas as part of an investigation that could detect eye changes of astronauts in space automatically in the future, and performed a demonstration of technology that provides measurements of biological indicators related to disease and infection, among many other scientific investigations.

The astronauts took hundreds of photos of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which helps to track natural disasters and changes to our home planet.

The Dragon Endurance spacecraft will return to Florida for inspection and processing at SpaceX’s Dragon Lair, where teams will examine the spacecraft’s data and performance throughout the flight.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

The Crew-3 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its return to Earth follows on the heels of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 launch, which docked at the station on 27 April, beginning another science expedition.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This has already produced additional research time and has increased the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s microgravity testbed for exploration, including helping NASA prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

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