Two NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut veteran and a Russian cosmonaut said goodbye to their seven space station crew members late Friday, strapped them into their Crew Dragon capsule and undocked for a fiery dive Saturday night to plunge into the Gulf of Mexico to end their 157-day mission. .

“Before we started, our flight director was calling Expedition 68 ‘Iron Man,'” pilot Josh Casado said last week. “And that was before the universe started throwing curveballs our way, and then it got crazy.

“While we were here, we did six spacewalks, installed two solar arrays, built the infrastructure for two more solar arrays and repaired an old broken one. We had five trucks (visiting) with all the scientific and hardware that (supports) hundreds of experiments and thousands of researchers all over the planet.”

Crew-5 astronauts wearing SpaceX spacesuits say goodbye to their space station crewmates before boarding the Crew Dragon spacecraft for their return to Earth on Saturday evening. From left to right: Astronaut Anna Kikina, Pilot Josh Kasada, Commander Nicole Mann and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.


He added: “We just want to say thank you and we hope we’ve made you proud. If we didn’t, don’t tell us until we get home!”

With Commander Nicole Mann and Kasada watching cockpit computer displays, flanked by Koichi Wakata and Astronaut Anna Kikina, Crew-5 Dragon undocked from the front end of the International Space Station at 2:20 a.m. EST to begin a 19-hour refueling flight to Gulf of Mexico near Tampa.

Remaining in orbit are members of their Expedition 68 crew, which consists of Crew-6 commander Stephen Bowen, pilot Woody Hoburg, cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, as well as Soyuz MS-22/23 crew members Sergei Prokop Eva, Dmitrii Petellina and NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio.

Bowen and his colleagues from Crew-6 arrived at the lab on March 3 to replace Mann, Kasada, Wakata, and Kikina. Launched last September, Prokopiev and his two Soyuz crew members are spending a year aboard the station after a micrometeorite impact disabled their shuttle, prompting the launch of a replacement spacecraft.

As Mann and her fellow crew members left the station, Rubio congratulated them on “a wonderful departure. You guys look great. Great job here, we’re going to miss you. God bless.”

Moments later, Mann, a Marine Corps colonel and former F/A-18 carrier pilot, thanked NASA and SpaceX for their support, saying, “I can’t tell you how great it is to be part of such an incredible team. “

“And to the crew aboard the International Space Station: you’ve got it all, we’re proud to follow your mission. And to our friends and family, thank you for following us and participating in our mission. I’m honored add to the legacy.” It ended with the motto of the Marine Corps: “Semper fidelis.”

Crew-5 Dragon departs the International Space Station, all systems go for re-entry and docking just after 9:00 PM EST in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Florida.


Speeding through space at 84 football fields per second — 17,100 miles per hour — Crew Dragon’s brake boosters were programmed to fire for 11 minutes and 21 seconds, beginning at 8:11 p.m. enough to drop the far side of the orbit into the lower atmosphere.

Twenty-eight minutes later, Crew Dragon was expected to re-enter the visible atmosphere, its heat shield able to withstand temperatures above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the craft rapidly decelerates in a ball of atmospheric friction.

The capsule’s main parachutes were expected to deploy during the final three and a half minutes of flight before landing at 9:02 p.m.

SpaceX crews were stationed nearby to inspect and “secure” the spacecraft and transfer it aboard the company’s recovery craft. Once on deck, the hatch will be opened and the crew will be helped out one by one and placed on stretchers to ease their adjustment to gravity after more than five months of weightlessness.

From the recovery ship, they will be flown ashore by helicopter and then helped aboard a NASA aircraft to return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for debriefing and reunion with family and friends.

During their 157-day mission, Crew-5 pilots spent 157 days and 10 hours off the planet, completing 2,512 orbits and flying 66.6 million miles since launch on October 5.

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