Crew-4 is Home, Two Days Late Due to Weather

Crew-4 is Home, Two Days Late Due to Weather

The U.S.-European Crew-4 mission splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, FL this afternoon, two days later than planned due to bad weather in the landing area. NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti spent 170 days on the International Space Station.

Today’s splashdown is part of the routine crew rotations for the ISS, which has been permanently occupied by successive sets of international astronauts on 4-6 month missions since November 2000.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom with the four members of Crew-4 splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, October 14, 2022, 4:55 pm ET. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Crew-4 spent a bit more time in space than planned.

Crew Dragon launches from Cape Canaveral, FL and splashes down in the water off Florida on either the Atlantic or Gulf coasts. Florida can be a bit tricky in terms of weather. At first the Crew-4 mission was extended because the launch of their replacements on Crew-5 was delayed by Hurricane Ian. Then NASA had to wave off the landing on Wednesday and Thursday because of poor weather due to cold fronts. As it turned out, however, orbital dynamics meant this crew got to make the quickest return to Earth on a Crew Dragon so far, just about 5 hours between undocking and splashdown.

Cristoforetti became the first European woman to command the ISS and now is second only to NASA’s Peggy Whitson in terms of total time in space for a woman — 369 days over her two spaceflights. Whitson accumulated 665 days over three flights and was ISS commander twice. She retired from NASA, but then joined Axiom Space and is scheduled to fly to the ISS again next year as commander of Axiom-2’s private astronaut mission.

Crew-4: Bob Hines (NASA), Samantha Cristoforetti (ESA/Italy), Jessica Watkins (NASA), Kjell Lindgren (NASA). Photo credit: NASA

This is the fourth operational SpaceX Crew Dragon flight ferrying NASA crews to and from ISS and the fifth overall since 2020 including the Demo-2 demonstration flight. Crew Dragon was developed through a Public-Private Partnership between NASA and SpaceX. SpaceX owns the system. NASA just purchases services.

The goal was for NASA to be just one of many customers and SpaceX is successfully fulfilling that business model. Two Crew Dragons already have taken commercial customers to space, Inspiration4 to Earth orbit and Axiom-1 to the ISS, making Crew-4 SpaceX’s seventh crewed spaceflight.

Its eighth, in just two years, launched on October 5 delivering Crew-4’s replacements, Crew-5: NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. They are currently aboard ISS with three others who arrived on Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 last month: Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.

The Crew-4 and Soyuz MS-22 crews welcomed Crew-5 aboard on October 6. At the time there were six Americans, three Russians, one European, and one Japanese on ISS. With Crew-4’s departure, the crew complement has returned to its usual seven, composed for this expedition of three Americans (Mann, Cassada and Rubio), three Russians (Prokopyev, Petelin and Kikina), and one Japanese (Wakata).

Members of Crew-4 and Soyuz MS-22 welcome Crew-5 to the ISS, October 6, 2022, screengrab.

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