Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home

Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home
In this image from video provided by NASA, astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule undock from the International Space Station on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, Credit: NASA via AP

Four astronauts in orbit since spring headed back to Earth on Monday, aiming for a late night splashdown off the Florida coast.

The undocking of their SpaceX capsule from the International Space Station also paved the way for a launch of their four replacements as early as Wednesday night.

The newcomers were scheduled to launch first, but NASA switched the order because of bad weather and an astronaut's undisclosed medical condition. The welcoming duties will now fall to the lone American and two Russians left behind at the station.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan's Akihiko Hoshide and France's Thomas Pesquet should have been back Monday morning, but high wind in the recovery zone delayed their homecoming. Their splashdown was planned for the Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola.

"One more night with this magical view. Who could complain? I'll miss our spaceship!" Pesquet tweeted alongside a brief video showing the space station illuminated against the blackness of space and the twinkling city lights on the nighttime side of Earth.

From the space station, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei—midway through a one-year flight—bid farewell to each of his departing friends, telling McArthur "I'll miss hearing your laughter in adjacent modules."

  • Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home
    In this image from video provided by NASA, the International Space Station is seen as astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule undock on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, Credit: NASA via AP
  • Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home
    In this image from video provided by NASA, astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule prepare for undocking from the International Space Station on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, Credit: NASA via AP
  • Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home
    In this image from video provided by NASA, astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule prepare for undocking from the International Space Station on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, Credit: NASA via AP
  • Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home
    In this image from video provided by NASA, astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule prepare for undocking from the International Space Station on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, Credit: NASA via AP

Before leaving the neighborhood, the four took a spin around the to take pictures. This was the first time SpaceX attempted a flyaround like this; NASA's shuttles used to do it all the time before their retirement a decade ago.

It wasn't the most comfortable ride back. The toilet in their capsule was broken, and so the astronauts needed to rely on diapers for the eight-hour trip home. They shrugged it off late last week as just one more challenge in their mission.

The first issue arose shortly after their April liftoff; Mission Control warned a piece of space junk was threatening to collide with their capsule. It turned out to be a false alarm. Then in July, thrusters on a newly arrived Russian lab inadvertently fired and sent the station into a spin. The four took shelter in their docked SpaceX capsule, ready to make a hasty departure if necessary.

Among the upbeat milestones: four spacewalks to enhance the 's , a movie-making visit by a Russian film crew and the first-ever space harvest of chile peppers. Their 200-day mission began last April.


Explore further

No toilet for returning SpaceX crew, stuck using diapers

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation: Four station astronauts catch ride with SpaceX back home (2021, November 8) retrieved 16 January 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-station-astronauts-spacex-home.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
60 shares

Feedback to editors