A SpaceX capsule is scattered, bringing 4 astronauts home from a 6-month mission

May 6 (Reuters) – SpaceX’s third long-duration team of astronauts to the International Space Station returned safely to Earth early Friday, landing in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida to finish months of orbital search starting from space. Chili peppers have grown into robots.

Dubbed Endurance, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, carrying three American astronauts from NASA and a fellow European Space Agency (ESA) fellow from Germany, parachuted into calm seas in the dark at the conclusion of a 23-hour or more autonomous flight home from International Space Station.

A video of the airflow thermal camera, at approximately 12:45 a.m. EDT (0445 GMT), was broadcast live by the joint NASA and SpaceX webcast.

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The Endurance crew, which began its stay in orbit on November 11, consists of American spaceflight veteran Tom Marshburn, 61, and three first-time astronauts: NASA’s Raja Chari, 44, Kayla Barron, 34, and their space agency colleague. European Matthias Maurer. , 52. Read more

Shari’s chime could be heard wirelessly thanks to the mission control moments after the water fell.

In less than an hour, the heat-scorched Crew Dragon was lifted onto the rescue ship before the capsule’s side hatch opened and the four astronauts helped one by one in their first breaths of fresh air in nearly six months.

Still dressed in black and white space clothes, their strength and balance rocked from 175 days in a weightless environment, they were aided on special stretchers while waving and giving thumbs up to the cameras.

Each was due to undergo a routine medical examination on board the ship before being flown by helicopter to Florida.

The return from orbit was followed by a fiery descent into Earth’s atmosphere, generating frictional heat that raised temperatures outside the capsule to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,930 degrees Celsius).

The four commercial astronauts representing NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission are photographed wearing their Dragon spacesuits for a proper check aboard the International Space Station’s Harmony module on April 21, 2022. From left, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, and NASA astronauts Tom Marshbourne, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron. NASA / Handout via Reuters

Two sets of parachutes opened over the capsule in the final stage of the descent, slowing its fall to about 15 mph (24 km/h) before the craft hit the waters off the coast of Tampa, Florida.

Applause from SpaceX flight control center in the Los Angeles suburbs was heard via webcast.

The newly returned astronauts have been officially designated as NASA’s “Commercial Crew 3”, the third long-duration team of four that SpaceX has flown to the space station under a contract with the US space agency.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the billionaire executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), which recently struck a deal to buy Twitter (TWTR.N), supplying Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon capsules that are now flying to astronauts. NASA into orbit from US soil.

The company also controls those flights and handles recovery operations, while NASA provides crew and launch facilities at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and manages US space station operations.

California-based SpaceX has launched seven human spaceflights in the past two years — five for NASA and two for special projects — as well as dozens of cargo and satellite missions since 2012.

Crew 3 returned to Earth with about 550 pounds (250 kg) of cargo, including International Space Station research sample payloads.

Aside from performing routine maintenance while in orbit about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, the astronauts have contributed to hundreds of science experiments and technical presentations.

Highlights included studies of gene expression in cotton cells cultured in space, combustion of gaseous flames in microgravity, and DNA sequencing of bacteria within the station. Crew members also tested new robotic devices, harvested chili peppers grown in orbit and conducted experiments in space physics and materials science.

Barron and Shari conducted a spacewalk to prepare the station for another in a series of new lightweight solar arrays, for eventual use at the planned outpost that will orbit the Moon.

The return of Crew 3 comes about a week after they welcomed the replacement team, Crew 4, aboard the space station. Oleg Artemyev, one of the three Russian cosmonauts who now inhabit the station, took command of the International Space Station from Marshburne on a delivery before leaving Endurance early Thursday.

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(Steve Gorman reports from Los Angeles.) Editing by Richard Boleyn and Jerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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