NASA’s Crew-3 mission was returning home to Earth on Thursday after six months aboard the International Space Station.The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft with NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chariand Tom Marshburn, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer undocked from the orbital laboratory overnight.
Their 23.5-hour journey back should see them splash down off the coast of Florida at 12:43 am on Friday. They leave behind the one Italian and three American astronauts of Crew-4and three Russian cosmonauts.
Marshburn handed command of the station over to Russian Oleg Artemyev, ahead of departure. Crew-3 carried out hundreds of scientific experiments, during their mission. This includes growing chiles in space to add to knowledge of cultivating crops on long term missions.
Crew-3’s expedition came at an increasingly busy time for commercial space.They welcomed aboard a private crew that included three wealthy businessmen that came and went on another SpaceX Crew Dragon, as well as a Japanese mission that flew on a Soyuz aircraft to the Russian segment.
The ISS now awaits docking with an uncrewed Boeing Starliner capsule. It is set to launch from Florida on May 19. NASA is looking to certify a second company to ferry astronauts to the region of space called Low Earth Orbit.