Sunday, February 5, 2023

SpaceX returns four astronauts to Earth, ends 200-day flight

Cape Canaveral, Fla. — Four astronauts returned to Earth on Monday, aboard SpaceX with SpaceX to end the 200-day space station mission that began last spring.

Their capsule soared across the late night sky like a bright meteor before parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. The recovery boats moved swiftly with the spotlight on.

“Welcome to Planet Earth, from SpaceX,” SpaceX Mission Control broadcast over the radio from Southern California.

Their homecoming – just eight hours after leaving the International Space Station – paved the way for SpaceX’s Wednesday night launch of four of its replacements.

The newcomers were earlier scheduled to launch, but NASA changed the order due to bad weather and an unknown medical condition of an astronaut. The reception is now left to the American and two Russians on the space station alone.

Ahead of Monday afternoon’s undocking, German astronaut Matthias Maurer, who awaits launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, tweeted that it was a shame the two crew members would not overlap on the space station, but ” We are sure you will leave everything nice and clean.” This will be SpaceX’s fourth crewed flight for NASA in just 1 1/2 years.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and France’s Thomas Pesquet were supposed to return Monday morning, but high winds in the recovery zone delayed their return.

“Another night with this magical sight. Who could have complained? I will miss our spacecraft!” Pesquet tweeted on Sunday alongside a brief video that shows the space station illuminated against the blackness of space and the twinkling city lights of Earth at night.

From the space station, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei — in the middle of a year-long flight — bid farewell to each of his departing friends, telling MacArthur “I’ll miss hearing your laughter in the adjacent module.”

Before leaving the neighborhood, the four circled the space station, taking pictures. This was a first for SpaceX; NASA shuttles used to do this all the time before their retirement a decade ago. The last Russian capsule fly-around was three years ago.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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