Saturday, March 25, 2023

4 astronauts descend, limiting SpaceX’s busiest month Nation World News

SpaceX brought four astronauts home to the Gulf of Mexico at midnight on Friday, marking its busiest month yet for Elon Musk’s taxi service.

Three American astronauts and one German in the capsule were scuttling off the Florida coast near Tampa, less than 24 hours after taking off from the International Space Station. NASA expected them to return to Houston later in the morning.

“That was a great ride,” said capsule commander Raja Chari. As for the re-introduction of gravity, he added: “Only one complaint. These water bottles are too heavy.”

Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron of NASA, and Mathias Maurer of the European Space Agency ejected from the capsule within an hour of splashdown, waving and giving thumbs up as they were towed away on a rolling chase for a medical examination .

‘Space lives on’

His departure from the space station on Thursday was bitter, as he hugged the remaining seven astronauts there.

“It’s the end of a six-month mission, but I think the space dream lives on,” Maurer said.

After completing a charter trip to the station for a trio of businessmen, SpaceX brought in its US and Italian replacements last week.

That’s hardly the equivalent of two crew launches and two splashdowns in a month. Musk’s company has now launched 26 people into orbit in less than two years, as it began bringing astronauts to NASA. Of those 26, eight were space tourists.

SpaceX vice president William Gerstenmaier called it “a very exciting time.”

“Satellites are nice, but the ones that fly are a little special and a little different, and the team here certainly understands that,” he told reporters. “There’s a sense of relief and a sense of accomplishment that you know you’ve done something good.”

NASA impressed

NASA is more impressed than ever given SpaceX’s busy pace. The only problem of note in the latest flight was a mechanical nut that came loose and popped away from the SpaceX capsule after Thursday’s undocking. Officials assured everyone that it would not pose any threat to the space station.

“Look at all this work over the past month,” said NASA’s Space Operations mission chief, Kathy Leiders. “I really want to thank SpaceX personally, wow, just for having such seamless operations on all those missions.”

The astronauts said their mission was highlighted by three visitors and their former astronaut escort, which dropped in April, opening up NASA’s station to paying guests after decades of resistance.

4 Astronauts Descend, Limiting Spacex'S Busiest Month Nation World News
In this image created from video provided by NASA, the European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer exits the SpaceX Dragon space capsule early Friday. (NASA/Associated Press)

Downstairs, they encountered an alarming spike in space junk after Russia blew up a satellite in a missile test in mid-November. More than 1,500 shrapnel are spread into Earth’s orbit in the coming years.

While the war in Ukraine has created tension between the US and Russia, the astronauts stand by their Russian crew, and vice versa. According to NASA officials, flight controllers in Houston and Moscow also continued to cooperate as usual.

As he stepped down command of the space station earlier this week, Marshburn called it a “place of peace” and said international cooperation would be its enduring legacy. The new commander, Russian Oleg Artemyev, also emphasized “peace among our countries, our friendship” in the class and described his comrades as brothers and sisters.

Above are now three Russians, three Americans and one Italian.

It was Marshburn’s third space flight, and the first of the three to return with her. Chari and Baron’s next stop could be the moon; He is among 18 American astronauts selected for NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. Two others from that elite are now on the space station.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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