The SpaceX capsule, which carries four astronauts back to Earth, landed on Monday after a six-month lull on the International Space Station off the coast of Florida, according to a live launch by NASA.
Braced by the earth’s atmosphere and by four large parachutes, the kite capsule landed brilliantly thanks to its heat shield.
They landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 10:33 p.m. Eastern Time (Tuesday, 9:03 a.m. IST), marking the end of the Crew 2 mission.
A ship will return the capsule and the ship’s astronauts will be brought back to Earth by helicopter.
Upon arrival on April 24, a crew of two American, one French and one Japanese astronaut conducted hundreds of experiments and helped modernize the station’s solar panels.
They boarded a kite called Endeavor and left the ISS at 2:05 p.m. (IST 12:35 IST), NASA announced.
Endeavor then toured the ISS for about an hour and a half to take photos, the first mission of its kind since Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft carried out a similar tactic in 2018.
The mostly autonomous kites have a small round window at the top of their front hatch through which astronauts can show their camera.
“I’m proud to represent France in space again! Next stop, Luna? Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) tweeted.
Activities include documenting the planet’s surface to record human-induced changes and natural phenomena, growing chili peppers, and studying worms to better understand changes in human health in space.
Crew-2’s start was delayed by a day due to strong winds.
Bad weather and what NASA has called a “minor medical problem” have delayed the start of the next group of astronauts on the Crew 3 mission, which will now begin on Wednesday.
Until then, the ISS will only accommodate three astronauts – two Russians and one American.
SpaceX began offering taxi services to the ISS for astronauts in 2020 and ended a nine-year US dependence on Russian travel rockets following the end of the shuttle program.
On their way home, the crew faces a final challenge: putting on diapers after discovering a problem with the capsule’s waste management system that forces them to stay offline.
At 12:40 (Tuesday 11:40) until the hatch was closed until it broke – they had no access to the toilet for about 10 hours.
“Of course it’s sub-optimal, but we’re ready to rule,” NASA astronaut Megan MacArthur said at a press conference before leaving.
“Space is full of very small challenges, it’s just another one we face and will face in our mission.”
The crew of the SpaceX All-Tourist encountered a similar litter-related issue during a flight in September that triggered the alarm system.
NASA later said the canister had been sealed so urine could be directed into the capsule’s ventilation system instead of a storage tank.