Crew-3 splashes down in Gulf of Mexico

WASHINGTON — A Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico May 6, returning four astronauts to Earth after nearly six months on the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft Endurance splashed down off the coast from Tampa, Florida, at 12:43 a.m. Eastern, after a normal reentry. Recovery teams placed the spacecraft onto a boat a half-hour later.

The spacecraft undocked from the ISS nearly 24 hours earlier with the four Crew-3 astronauts on board: Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron of NASA and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency. The four launched to the station on that spacecraft last November.

“We’re glad to be back. Thanks for letting us take Endurance on a shakedown cruise,” Chari, the Crew-3 commander, said moments after splashdown. “It was a great ride.”

The splashdown wraps up an active month in human spaceflight for SpaceX. The company launched the Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour April 8 on the commercial Ax-1 mission for Axiom Space. The spacecraft docked with the ISS a day later and its crew of four private astronauts remained there 15 days, undocking April 24 for a splashdown off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, April 25.

Less than 39 hours after that splashdown, another Crew Dragon spacecraft, Freedom, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on the Crew-4 mission to the ISS. It docked to the station after a 16-hour journey, delivering NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and and Jessica Watkins and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. They will remain on the station until relieved by the Crew-5 mission, projected to launch in September on the same Endurance spacecraft that returned Crew-3.

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