The astronauts that flew to the ISS as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission are back on Earth after almost six months on the orbiting lab. They splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance, which made its debut flight with the same astronauts back in November 2021, on May 6th at 12:43am ET — and NASA has captured a pretty spectacular night video of the event.
And… splashdown! Dragon has safely made it home with precious cargo aboard: four #Crew3 astronauts!
Now they wait for the recovery vehicle, which is named after Shannon Walker, mission specialist for the first crewed @SpaceX mission to the @Space_Station: pic.twitter.com/VDDXdsxkbH
— NASA (@NASA) May 6, 2022
As you can see, the Endurance capsule looks particularly glowy in infrared, most likely because it reached a temperature of around 3500 degrees Fahrenheit upon entering the atmosphere. The recovery team pulled out 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 out of the four, and he completed his fifth spacewalk during the mission. It was the first ISS mission for the other three, with Maurer being only the second ESA astronaut to fly aboard a Dragon capsule.
The #Crew3 mission is officially complete!
After launching from Kennedy on Nov. 10, 2021, @SpaceX's Dragon Endurance splashed down off the coast of Florida today at 12:43am ET, bringing @Astro_Raja, @AstroMarshburn, Kayla Barron, and @Astro_Matthias home: https://t.co/wGNaM6g04x pic.twitter.com/48fiA9sNca
— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) May 6, 2022
The Crew-3 astronauts spent 177 days in orbit and started their stay with a bang. Shortly after they arrived on the station, all the astronauts onboard had to seek safety on their transport craft when the ISS passed dangerously close to a field of orbital debris. The US State Department later said that 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, one JAXA astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut. It will be the fifth crewed NASA Commercial Crew flight so far after Crew-4 launched to the station back in April.