After breaking a new record for the longest journey by a US crewed spacecraft, the NASA-SpaceX Crew-2 mission successfully returned to Earth.
The NASA-SpaceX Crew-2 mission successfully returned to Earth after setting a new record for the longest voyage by a US crewed spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at 10.33 p.m. EST Monday (9.03 a.m. Tuesday IST).
“NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts have safely splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft,” NASA said in a statement.
The crew stayed in orbit for 199 days, breaking NASA's previous record of 168 days established by the SpaceX Crew-1 mission earlier this year.
“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, in the statement.
“Congratulations to the teams at NASA and SpaceX who worked so hard to ensure their successful splashdown. NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme continues to demonstrate safe, reliable transportation to conduct important science and maintenance on the space station,” he added.
The Crew-2 mission took out from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. On April 24, approximately 24 hours after liftoff, the Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to the Harmony module's forward port of the space station.
During their mission, Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet covered 84,653,119 statute miles, spent 198 days onboard the space station, and performed 3,194 orbits around the Earth.
The Crew-2 astronauts participated in a variety of science and maintenance duties, scientific inquiries, and technological demonstrations during their mission. They also took part in four spacewalks and several public outreach events while aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Among many other scientific pursuits, they researched how gaseous flames behave in microgravity, cultivated hatch green chiles in the station's Plant Habitat Facility, installed free-flying robotic helpers, and even donned virtual reality goggles to explore new ways of exercising in space.
The astronauts shot hundreds of photos of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation research, which is one of the longest-running investigations onboard the space station and helps track natural catastrophes and changes to our home planet.
All four Crew-2 members boarded Endeavour on July 21 for a port relocation operation, shifting their spacecraft from the forward-facing port on the station's Harmony module to the space-facing port.
The return of Crew-2 arrives just in time for NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 mission, which is set to launch no early than November 10 on another six-month long-duration mission.
Crew-4, the next NASA and SpaceX crew rotation mission, is scheduled to fly in April 2022.