Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

In the early hours of Tuesday, four astronauts successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida, concluding their mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that lasted over six months.

The re-entry of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft occurred at 5:47 am (0947 GMT) near Pensacola, with all four drogue parachutes deploying as captured by a NASA thermal camera. Led by US astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, the Crew-7 mission marked her inaugural spaceflight, alongside crewmates Andreas Mogensen of Denmark, Satoshi Furukawa of Japan, and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov.

The return journey commenced after an 18-and-a-half-hour trip from the ISS, where the astronauts arrived last August aboard the same SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Upon splashdown, the recovery vessel quickly retrieved the capsule from the sea, with the crew visibly waving to the recovery team as the hatch was opened, signifying their safe return.

Despite ongoing geopolitical tensions, space exploration continues to foster collaboration between the United States and Russia. US astronauts, including those from Crew-7, still rely on Russian Soyuz rockets for transportation, highlighting the enduring cooperation in space endeavors. During a farewell ceremony preceding their departure, Moghbeli emphasized the significance of international partnership in the development and operation of the ISS, reflecting on the vision and perseverance that brought the orbiting laboratory to fruition.

Throughout their mission, the Crew-7 astronauts conducted various scientific experiments aboard the ISS, ranging from assessing the release of microorganisms to studying the effects of microgravity on liver regeneration, contributing valuable insights to space research. Notably, Crew-7’s mission represents the seventh routine NASA mission to the ISS under the collaboration with SpaceX, which began in 2020. The latest mission, Crew-8, launched on March 4, further demonstrating the continuous efforts in space exploration.

As part of NASA’s strategy to reduce dependency on Russian rockets following the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the agency contracts private partners like SpaceX for crew transportation services. While Boeing is another contracted partner, its program has encountered delays, with the first crew flight now scheduled for May. Meanwhile, the ISS, operational since 2000, is expected to continue its mission until at least 2030, serving as a symbol of international cooperation and scientific advancement in space exploration.

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