SpaceX successfully returns NASA, ESA astronauts from space station

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Three NASA astronauts and one from the ESA (European Space Agency) landed safely on Earth from the International Space Station on Friday.

The international crew of four: NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer returned to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft at 12:43 a.m. EDT.

They spent 177 days in orbit – NASA’s third long-duration commercial crew mission.

“And… splashdown! Dragon has safely made it home with precious cargo aboard: four #Crew3 astronauts!” NASA wrote on Twitter.

“NASA’s partnership with SpaceX has again empowered us to deliver a crew safely to the space station and back, enabling groundbreaking science that will help our astronauts travel farther out into the cosmos than ever before. This mission is just one more example that we are truly in the golden era of commercial spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a statement.

“Kayla, Raja, Tom, and Matthias, thank you for your service and welcome home!” he added.

The Crew-3 mission launched November 10 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Barron, Chari, Marshburn, and Maurer travelled 75,060,792 miles during their mission, spent 175 days aboard the space station, and completed 2,832 orbits around Earth.

Marshburn has logged 339 days in space over his three flights. The Crew-3 mission was the first spaceflight for Barron, Chari, and Marshburn.

Throughout their mission, the Crew-3 astronauts contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities and technology demonstrations. In addition, they conducted three spacewalks to perform station maintenance and upgrades outside the space station.

This brought the total number of spacewalks for Marshburn to five, while Chari and Barron have each completed two, and Maurer one.

Crew-3 built on previous work investigating how fibres grow in microgravity, used hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without soil or other growth material, captured imagery of their retinas as part of an investigation that could detect eye changes of astronauts in space automatically in the future.

The astronauts took hundreds of photos of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which helps track natural disasters and changes to Earth.

The Crew-3 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme and its return to Earth follows on the heels of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 launch, which docked to the station April 27, beginning another science expedition.

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