NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Safely Splash Down In Atlantic

The Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts landed safely Friday off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. This was the fourth commercial crew mission by NASA to the International Space Station. Four people from different countries spent 170 days in space.

At 4:55 p.m. EDT, NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti splashed down on Earth with the help of their parachutes. The spacecraft and astronauts were brought back to Earth by teams on SpaceX recovery vessels. All of the astronauts will fly to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston after they get back to Earth. After that, Cristoforetti will get on a plane to go to Europe.

“Greetings, Crew-4! This international crew has been working on science on the International Space Station for almost six months. “Their work on the orbiting lab will help prepare future space explorers for their own missions,” said Bill Nelson, who is in charge of NASA. “Working and living on the space station is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but it also means these explorers have to give up things, like time with their families. Thank you, Kjell, Bob, Jessica, and Samantha, for your contributions to science, innovation, and discovery over the past six months!

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-4 mission took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:52 a.m. EDT on April 27. In less than 16 hours, Dragon docked to the space-facing port on the Harmony module. Friday at 12:05 p.m., the astronauts left the same port to start their trip home.

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During their mission, Hines, Lindgren, Watkins, and Cristoforetti went 72,168,935 miles, spent 170 days on the space station, and went 2,720 times around the Earth. Lindgren has spent 311 days in space over his two flights, and Cristoforetti has spent 369 days in space over her two flights. This makes her second on the list of women who have spent the most time in space. For Hines and Watkins, the Crew-4 mission was their first time in space.

During their mission, the Crew-4 astronauts did a lot of science and maintenance work and showed off new technologies. Cristoforetti and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev went on two spacewalks to fix and improve the station.

Crew-4 kept working on studies to find out how changes to the space diet affect immune function and the gut microbiome, how fuel temperature affects the flammability of a material, how equipment noise and microgravity might hurt astronauts’ hearing, and whether additives make emulsions more stable or less stable. The astronauts also looked into how microgravity changes the immune system in a way that is similar to aging. They also tested a new membrane for reclaiming water and looked at an alternative to concrete made from a material found in lunar and Martian dust.

The spacecraft, which Crew-4 named Freedom, will go back to Florida to be checked out and fixed up at SpaceX’s Dragon Lair. There, teams will look at the data and performance of the spacecraft during the flight.

The Crew-4 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Its return to Earth comes right after the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5, which docked at the station on October 6 and started a new science mission.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is to get people to and from the International Space Station in a way that is safe, reliable, and cheap. This has already given scientists more time for research and more chances to find new things on Earth’s microgravity testbed for exploration. It has also helped NASA get ready for human trips to the Moon and Mars.

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