Washington [US]: Four astronauts from NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 have returned safely to Earth after 199 days of scientific research on the International Space Station.
The astronauts splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida on Monday, completing the agency’s second long-duration commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 10:33 pm EST off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
Speaking about the splashdown, NASA administrator Bill Nelso said, “We’re happy to have Shane, Megan, Aki, and Thomas safely back on Earth after another successful, record-setting long-duration mission to the International Space Station. Congratulations to the teams at NASA and SpaceX who worked so hard to ensure their successful splashdown. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to demonstrate safe, reliable transportation to conduct important science and maintenance on the space station.”
The Crew-2 mission launched April 23 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to the Harmony module’s forward port of the space station on April 24, nearly 24-hours after liftoff.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet travelled 84,653,119 statute miles during their mission, stayed 198 days aboard the space station, and completed 3,194 orbits around Earth.
During their mission, the astronauts contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities, scientific investigations, and technology demonstrations. They even conducted four spacewalks and multiple public engagement events while aboard the orbiting laboratory. They studied how gaseous flames behave in microgravity, grew hatch green chiles in the station’s Plant Habitat Facility, installed free-flying robotic assistants, and even donned virtual reality goggles to test new methods of exercising in space, among many other scientific activities.
The astronauts took hundreds of pictures of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which contributes to tracking of natural disasters and changes to our home planet.
Kimbrough, Hoshide, and Pesquet also completed four spacewalks to install, deploy, or otherwise prepare for the installation of ISS Roll-out Solar Arrays. This brought the total number of spacewalks for Kimbrough, Hoshide, and Pesquet to nine, four, and six, respectively.
The splashdown of Crew-2 comes just ahead of the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission, currently scheduled for Wednesday.