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Yesterday a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with four members aboard landed successfully in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola. Space News wrote that four astronauts finished their 200-day mission and cleared the way for the other crew of four members who will fly to the ISS later this week. 

The crew includes two NASA astronauts, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency. The group launched to the space station on April 23rd atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, part of a mission called Crew-2.

The spacecraft undocked from the station at 2:05 p.m. Eastern. The spacecraft spent the next two hours performing a flyaround of the station, making a loop of the station from a distance of about 200 meters.

When the vehicle splashed down in the water, the special recovery ship arrived to that place to help Crew Dragon members leave the capsule safely. 

The Verge notes in its article that it’s the third time that SpaceX has launched people to the International Space Station and then safely delivered them home. These trips are part of NASA and SpaceX’s Commercial Crew Program that obliges private space companies to bring NASA’s astronauts and international partners to and from the ISS. The first mission happened with the first two crew members in May 2020 as a part of a test flight to prove safety of its Crew Dragon capsule, designed to launch on top of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. After the successful result SpaceX send Crew-1 mission in November 2020. That time it was the crew of four to the ISS. 

NASA and SpaceX should prepare the next mission Crew-3 as the Crew-2 is back home. Another crew of four — including NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer — are scheduled to launch inside a Crew Dragon capsule on Wednesday, November 10th at 9:03PM ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Initially NASA planned to launch Crew-3 on October 31st, before the Crew-2 astronauts left station. So the previous crew and a rotation crew could greet each other and exchange instructions. But things didn’t always go as planned. The space agency postponed the Crew-3 mission several times. Bad weather at one of the launch’s abort locations pushed back the launch first. Then one of the crew members suffered a minor medical issue, prompting NASA to delay the launch further. NASA didn’t reveal what kind of medical issue it was, but the company did notice that it was not related to COVID-19.

The Crew-2 spent 6 productive months on board the ISS. They performed more than 300 experiments and grew the first Hatch chile peppers in orbit and even made tacos from it. The Crew-2 team also dealt with some unexpected moments aboard the ISS, notably when a newly docked Russian module accidentally fired its thrusters and spun the station around its axis.eather getting worse deeper into the month.

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