As the third long-duration astronaut team launched by SpaceX to the International Space Station (ISS) safely returned to Earth earlier today, led by Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari, South Asian history was created.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endurance, carrying three US NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency (ESA) crewmate from Germany, parachuted into calm seas in darkness at the conclusion of a 23-hour-plus autonomous flight home from the ISS. They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida to end months of orbital research ranging from space-grown chilies to robots.
Handing over @Space_Station duties to @NASA_Astronauts from #Crew4. Starting XROOTS experiment to pave way for better plant growing tech for @NASA #Artemis & farmers on Earth. pic.twitter.com/WG4MGjg826
— Raja Chari (@Astro_Raja) May 4, 2022
The Endurance crew, which began its stay in orbit on November 11th, 2021, consisted of American spaceflight veteran Tom Marshburn, 61, and three first-time astronauts: NASA’s Raja Chari, 44, and Kayla Barron, 34, and their ESA colleague Matthias Maurer, 52.
Chari could be heard radioing thanks to mission control moments after splashdown.
In less than an hour, the heat-scorched Crew Dragon was hoisted onto a recovery ship before the capsule’s side hatch was opened and the four astronauts were helped out one by one for their first breath of fresh air in nearly six months.
Still garbed in white-and-black spacesuits, their strength and equilibrium shaky from 175 days in a weightless environment, were assisted onto special gurneys as they waved and gave thumbs-up to cameras.
The #Crew3 mission is officially complete!
After launching from Kennedy on Nov. 10, 2021, @SpaceX's Dragon Endurance splashed down off the coast of Florida today at 12:43am ET, bringing @Astro_Raja, @AstroMarshburn, Kayla Barron, and @Astro_Matthias home: https://t.co/wGNaM6g04x pic.twitter.com/48fiA9sNca
— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) May 6, 2022
The newly returned astronauts were officially designated as NASA’s “Commercial Crew 3,” the third full-fledged, long-duration team of four that SpaceX has flown to the space station under contract for the US space agency.
Every day on @Space_Station is #EarthDay for @NASA_Astronauts since we see how thin the precious layer is that protects everything we know & love as a human race. Hopefully, @NASA research will help w/ H20 purification & carbon dioxide reductions but the rest is up to us. pic.twitter.com/Ap6yM6VHWF
— Raja Chari (@Astro_Raja) April 22, 2022
The commander of SpaceX Crew-3 mission to space, Raja Chari joined NASA in 2017.
While Chari was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his father, Srinivas Chari, immigrated to the US from Hyderabad for an engineering degree.
He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and US Naval Test Pilot School, and has over 2,000 flying hours. He is a colonel in the United States Air Force.
In December 2020, he was even selected on the Artemis Team, a group of astronauts “to help pave the way for the next lunar missions including sending the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface in 2024.”