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Crew-7 begins journey home following six-month stay at the International Space Station

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A view of the Crew Dragon Endurance as it prepared to undock from the International Space Station following 197 days at the orbiting outpost. Image: NASA

A journey of more than half a year orbiting around the world is coming to an end for the four-member team of the SpaceX Crew-7 mission. The Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 11:20 a.m. EDT (1520 UTC) after 197 days.

Commander and NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli and her crew, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov bid farewell to the rest of Expedition 70 during a ceremony on Sunday.

“This has been the adventure of a lifetime. This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a child and I was afraid I would get up here and might be disappointed and it wouldn’t live up to my expectations,” Moghbeli said. “But the international partnership we have up here and the space station are just incredible. It’s an indication of what we can do when we work together.”

The approaching conclusion of the Crew-7 mission wraps up the first spaceflights for both Moghbeli and Borisov.

“It’s a bittersweet moment. We have been here for over six months, but the time has flown very fast and it’s time to get back,” Borisov said. “I’m really happy that we’ve done all the work we have planned to do. The station is working just fine, all the experiments are going and we know that we are taking over by a great team for continuing into the end of Expedition 70 and into the beginning of Expedition 71.”

During Mogensen’s remarks cap off his second trip to the space station and his first stint as commander of the ISS. At a total of 166 days in that role, he enters the history books as the longest-serving European astronaut commander to date.

Mogensen passed off both a ceremonial key to the station along with the commander duties to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko. This is Kononenko’s third time to assume command of the ISS.

“On my first mission in 2015, I had the pleasure of flying with Gennady Padalka, who at that time, set the record for 878 days in space. You’ve now surpassed that and you are well on your way to reaching 1,000 days in space, which is an incredible achievement,” Mogensen said. “There is no one more experienced than you when it comes to the International Space Station, so I will be leaving it in probably the best hands possible.”

Kononenko broke Padalka’s record on Feb. 4, 2024 at 2:30:08 a.m. EST (0730:08 UTC) and he is in the middle of his fifth trip to space. He is expected to cross that 1,000-day mark on June 5, 2024.

Crew-7 is now in the midst of a 19-hour journey to splashdown off the coast of Florida at roughly 5:50 a.m. EDT (0950 UTC). NASA and SpaceX will host a teleconference around 7 a.m. EDT (1100 UTC) following splashdown to discuss the conclusion of the mission.

This kicks off a busy week for both NASA and SpaceX. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is hosting his State of NASA address Monday afternoon along with releasing details of the FY25 budget request.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is preparing for both a mid-week Starlink launch from Florida and the third integrated test flight of its Starship rocket from southern Texas. The latter is waiting for clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration before it can launch.

In in post to social media, SpaceX also noted that while Crew-7 was preparing to undock, it’s also well into the process of training the next quartet who will head to the ISS later this year: Crew-9.

And while Crew-8 was readying for launch and Crew-7 was aboard the orbiting laboratory, Crew-9 was preparing for their mission at SpaceX pic.twitter.com/scr0RM0DlP

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 11, 2024
 
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