Four astronauts have flown back to Earth on a SpaceX rocket after a record six-month science mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The return journey made use of SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, completing Nasa’s second long-duration commercial crew mission to the ISS. The mission set a record for the longest spaceflight by a US-crewed spacecraft of 199 days in orbit, surpassing the 168 days set by Nasa’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission earlier this year.
Nasa astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, alongside 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 a landing site in Florida late yesterday evening.
“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,” said Nasa administrator Bill Nelson.
“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 astronauts travelled 84,653,119 statute miles during their mission, stayed 198 days aboard the space station, and completed 3,194 orbits of the Earth.
Throughout their mission, they contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities, scientific investigations and technology demonstrations.
In addition, they conducted four spacewalks and multiple public engagement events while aboard the orbiting laboratory.
They studied how gaseous flames behave in microgravity, grew hatch green chilies 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 ISS, which contributes to tracking of natural disasters and changes to the Earth.