SpaceX's fourth operational crewed mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program came to an end on October 14. SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts returned from the International Space Station (ISS) after 170 days. Crew-4 NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Jessica Watkins, as well as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti undocked from the space-facing port of the ISS Harmony module at 12:05 p.m. EDT on Friday. Their departure from the orbiting laboratory was delayed twice this week due to weather concerns at the Florida splashdown site.
On Friday, Crew-4 safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean around 5-hours after undocking SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom. The spacecraft performed a parachute-assisted splashdown at 4:55 p.m. EDT. NASA and SpaceX teams rapidly arrived at the site aboard SpaceX’s recovery ship named 'Megan', and fished-out the spacecraft out of the water which carried the astronaut quartet. Crew-4 astronauts will be checked by medical personnel and transported by private airplane to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The Dragon Freedom spacecraft "will return to Florida for inspection and processing at SpaceX’s Dragon Lair, where teams will examine the spacecraft’s data and performance throughout the flight," shared the agency.
The @SpaceX recovery ship Megan is seen in the Atlantic Ocean as @NASA, @esa, and SpaceX teams prepare for the return of Crew Dragon Freedom and the #Crew4 astronauts. 📷: https://t.co/aaEByAsrES pic.twitter.com/zEOdWjggVI— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) October 14, 2022
“Welcome home Crew-4! This international crew has spent nearly six months on the International Space Station conducting science for the benefit of all. Their work aboard the orbiting laboratory will help prepare future explorers for future space missions,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Working and living on the space station is the opportunity of a lifetime, but it also requires these explorers to make sacrifices, especially time away from loved ones. Kjell, Bob, Jessica and Samantha, thank you for your contributions over the past six months to science, innovation, and discovery!"
SpaceX Crew-4 Mission Specialist NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins made history as the first woman of color to be launched on a long-duration mission on the Space Station. "I think it really is just a tribute to the legacy of the Black women astronauts that have come before me, as well as to the exciting future ahead," Watkins said. Out of the 248 astronauts who have visited the space station, only 7 have been a person of color. “It is an honor to be part of that legacy moving forward,” she said. "For me, growing up, it was important to me to have role models in roles that I aspire to be in, contributing in ways I aspired to contribute," said Watkins. "So to the extent that I'm able to do that, I'm honored and grateful for the opportunity to return the favor."
Throughout their mission, the Crew-4 astronauts performed hundreds of science experiments at the Space Station, including investigations to determine whether fuel temperature affects the flammability of a material. Other research included documenting how improvements to astronauts' diet affect immune function and the gut microbiome, as well as "exploring possible adverse effects on astronaut hearing from equipment noise and microgravity," said NASA. "The astronauts also investigated microgravity-induced changes in the human immune system similar to aging, tested a novel water-reclamation membrane, and examined a concrete alternative made with a material found in lunar and Martian dust." ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti completed a pair of spacewalks with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev to perform maintenance outside the Station.
All Featured Images Source: SpaceX & NASA