On Monday, Four astronauts returned to Earth, as they rode home with SpaceX to end a 200-day space station mission that began last spring. The four astronauts spent six months on the International Space Station, according to a live broadcast of NASA.
Their capsule in which they were carried to Earth, parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, in darkness. With the help of spotlights Recovery boats quickly moved in. Well, their homecoming, which is coming just eight hours after leaving the International Space Station, has made the way for SpaceX’s launch of their other four replacements which can be as early as Wednesday night.
The newcomers were scheduled to launch first, but NASA switched this order due to the bad weather and one of the astronaut’s undisclosed medical conditions. So, the welcoming duties will now fall to the lone American and two Russians left behind at the space station.
Before the afternoon’s undocking on Monday, Matthias Maurer, a German astronaut, who is waiting to launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, tweeted that it was a shame the two crews would not be able to overlap at the space station but “we trust you’ll leave everything nice and tidy,” and this will be SpaceX’s fourth crew flight for NASA in just 1 1/2 years.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, and France’s Thomas Pesquet were scheduled to be back Monday morning, but the sudden high wind in the recovery zone became the reason for the delay in their return.
“One more night with this magical view. Who could complain? I’ll miss our spaceship!” Pesquet tweeted along with a brief video showing the space station illuminated against the blackness of space and also the beautiful small twinkling city lights in the nighttime side of Earth.
From the space station, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who is midway through a one-year flight, bid farewell to each of his departing friends, and told McArthur “I’ll miss hearing your laughter in adjacent modules.” And before leaving the neighborhood, the four members of the crew took a look around the space station and took some pictures. This was a first for SpaceX; NASA’s shuttles used to do it all the time before their retirement a decade ago as the last Russian capsule fly-around was three years ago.
Well, it can be said that it wasn’t the most comfortable ride back to Earth, as the toilet in their capsule was broken, and as a result, the astronauts had to rely on diapers for the eight-hour trip back to home. They shrugged it off late last week but they have faced quite challenges in their mission.
The first challenge came up shortly after their April liftoff; the Mission Control warned about a piece of space junk that was threatening to collide with their capsule. Then it turned out to be a false alarm. Next, in July, thrusters on a newly arrived Russian lab inadvertently fired and as a result, it sent the station into a spin. The four astronauts stayed in their docked SpaceX capsule and were ready to make a hasty departure if necessary.
It is reported that the next crew will also spend their six months up there, and thus, welcoming back-to-back groups of tourists. In December, a Japanese tycoon and his assistant will get a lift from the Russian Space Agency, which will be then followed by three businessmen arriving via SpaceX in February. In September, SpaceX’s first privately chartered flight bypassed the space station.