SpaceX Crew-5 Safely Returns To Earth
NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 safely returns to earth with a successful splashdown off the coast of Florida. The four-person spacecraft, which included NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency astronaut, completed a six-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS).
The Journey Home
The Crew-5 mission began on September 30, 2022, when the crew launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The crew included NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, and Mark Vande Hei, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.
During their six-month stay on the ISS, the Crew-5 astronauts conducted a variety of scientific experiments and maintenance tasks, as well as performed two spacewalks. They also welcomed several visiting spacecraft, including SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.
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On March 12, the Crew-5 spacecraft undocked from the ISS and began its journey back to Earth. The spacecraft, which was the same one that carried the Crew-4 astronauts to the ISS in 2021, used the same heat shield and parachutes for its return journey.
The Crew-5 spacecraft performed a deorbit burn to slow down and begin its descent through the Earth's atmosphere. The heat shield protected the spacecraft from the intense heat generated during re-entry, and the parachutes successfully slowed the spacecraft down for a gentle splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
The splashdown occurred at 3:09 a.m. Eastern time, about 120 miles east of the Kennedy Space Center. Recovery teams quickly retrieved the Crew-5 astronauts and brought them aboard a waiting ship for a medical evaluation.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson welcomed the crew by saying:
Welcome home, Crew-5! This international crew has been conducting critical science experiments and technology demonstrations on the International Space Station that will help prepare us for future deep space missions and pave the way for our return to the Moon. “Each advancement these explorers make is not an achievement for one, but a giant leap for all of humanity.
- NASA Administrator Bill Nelson
Future Crewed Missions
The successful return of the Crew-5 mission marks another milestone in the partnership between NASA and SpaceX, which has been providing crewed transportation to the ISS since 2020. The next crewed mission, Crew-6, is currently scheduled for launch in June 2023.
NASA also has plans for a crewed mission to the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program, which will use the agency's new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. The mission will be the first crewed mission to the moon since the Apollo program in the 1970s.
The safe return of the Crew-5 mission is a testament to the expertise and dedication of the NASA and SpaceX teams. The crew's six-month stay on the ISS has contributed to our understanding of space and the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. As NASA looks ahead to future crewed missions, the lessons learned from the Crew-5 mission will continue to inform and shape the agency's plans for exploring space.