International Space Station astronauts return to Earth onboard SpaceX Dragon

NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, landed off the coast of Florida early on November 9, 2021, along with 240 kilograms of experience results. 

Their eight-and-a-half-hour descent from the International Space Station was made possible by the same SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the Endeavour, that took them on board the station on April 23, 2021.

The capsule was slowed down by parachutes. Once in the water, it was hoisted with a crane onto a ship. The astronauts were then removed one by one and placed on stretchers.

The crew members must follow a long physical rehabilitation period before they can readapt to Earth’s gravity once again. During the next three weeks, the crew will be observed in a study into the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

Their six-month mission was nothing short of eventful, and the crew had to deal with its fair share of challenges. 

During a routine inspection on May 12, 2021, a small hole was found on the Canadarm2 robotic arm attributed to an impact with either a micrometeorite or space debris

Then, during three spacewalks on June 16, 20, and 25, 2021, astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough completed the installation of new solar panels, providing a 34% upgrade in energy generation to the ISS.

On July 29, 2021, about two hours after docking to the ISS, the new Russian scientific module Nauka inadvertently fired its thrusters, causing the entire station to deviate from its orbit.

On October 5, 2021, the ISS crew received Russian actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko, on a short visit to shoot the world’s first feature film in orbit.

The three astronauts still on the ISS, Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, and American Mark Vande Hei, will soon be joined by three more NASA astronauts, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Tom Marshburn, as well as ESA’s Matthias Maurer. The takeoff is scheduled for November 10, 2021.

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