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  • Borislav Ivanov

Astronaut Crew Splashed Down in Gulf of Mexico, Ending 5-Month-Long Space Mission

The four astronauts who make up the Crew-5 crew aboard the International Space Station splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday after a five-month stint in space.

NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 Dragon Endurance unhooked from the International Space Station at 2:05 a.m. EDT on Saturday, March 11, completing a nearly six-month scientific mission. Credit: Florida Today; NASA

At 2:20 a.m. ET, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule departed from the space station, beginning the final leg of the astronauts' mission. The spacecraft then manoeuvred back toward Earth before smashing into the atmosphere just after 9 p.m. ET Saturday, landing off the coast of Tampa, Florida.

Rescue ships awaited the team's arrival, ready to tow the capsule out of the water and allow the crew to disembark, providing the astronauts with their first breath of fresh air in over 160 days.

The four crew members — NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian space agency Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina — launched to the space station in October aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship. They've spent the last few months conducting scientific experiments and maintaining the two-decade-old orbiting laboratory.

In the days running up to their departure, the Crew-5 astronauts handed over operations to the Crew-6 team, who arrived at the space station on March 3.

SpaceX Crew-6 Captain Stephen Bowen, Pilot Warren "Woody" Hoburg, and Mission Specialists Sultan Alneyadi and Andrey Fedyaev. Credit: SpaceX

Get to know the crew better.

Mann, a recognised member of the Round Valley reservation's Wailacki tribe, became the first Native American woman in space. She spent time on her mission, like the other astronauts, doing public outreach, part of which focused on motivating Indigenous youth. Mann displayed a dream catcher — a traditional Native American talisman designed to ward off bad nightmares — that she carried with her to the space station at one outreach engagement in November 2022.

The Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station by SpaceX. From left: JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, and NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada. Credit: SpaceX

“I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” Mann told reporters prior to the launch. “I think it’s important to celebrate our diversity and also realise how important it is when we collaborate and unite, the incredible accomplishments that we can have.”

Kikina's participation in this voyage was made possible by a ride-sharing arrangement signed between NASA and Roscosmos in July 2022. Despite rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and Russia as the conflict in Ukraine escalates, NASA has consistently said that its relationship with Roscosmos is critical to the continued operation of the space station and the essential scientific research conducted on board.

This is Mann's, Cassada's, and Kikina's first space voyage.

Wakata has previously flown on NASA's space shuttle missions as well as Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. This was the fifth spaceflight mission for the Japanese astronaut.

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