SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Down Safely After 6 Months in Orbit, But the Mission Got Off to a Harrowing Start

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Down Safely After 6 Months in Orbit, But the Mission Got Off to a Harrowing Start

SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon Endurance splashed down off the coast of Tampa early this morning, per NASA, bringing crew members safely back to Earth after almost six months in orbit following a mission to the International Space Station that got off to a terrifying start last fall. 

On November 11, 2021, Endurance launched from the Kennedy Space Center with Crew-3 aboard, SpaceX‘s third operational Commercial Crew mission to the ISS, which included astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, Tom Marshburn and Matthias Maurer. They arrived at the station with over 400 pounds of supplies and hardware, 150 pounds of which consisted of research experiments to be conducted in the orbital labratory.

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Just a few days later, on November 15, debris generated by a destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test passed dangerously close to the ISS, forcing crew members to seek shelter aboard their spacecrafts. “I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement at the time. “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts.”

Fortunately, the Endurance‘s splash down went off without a hitch this morning, only a few days after SpaceX‘s Dragon Freedom, which carried its Crew-4, arrived at the space station, making a direct handover possible.

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NASA documented the Endurance‘s mesmerizing return on its Twitter account. 

And posted some celebratory photos of the crew’s disembarkation. 

SpaceX plans to launch its next manned flight to the ISS in September of 2022.