Update March 11 at 3 am: This story has been updated to reflect recent times at NASA.
SpaceX’s Crew-5 spacecraft for NASA lifted off from the International Space Station at 2:20 a.m. EST (0720 GMT) on Saturday (March 11) after more than five months in space.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying the four-person crew of NASA astronauts Josh Kasada and Nicole Mann, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina and Japan’s Koichi Wakata blasted off from the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:20 a.m. EST (0720 GMT) on Saturday.
After the capsule pulled back from the orbital outpost, NASA astronaut Josh Cassada said, “It’s great to be on the International Space Station.” “The crew is incredibly proud of the work we did while we were there. We’re excited to be back on that beautiful planet of ours and the wonderful people there.”
NASA has twice delayed departures from the ISS due to weather concerns from previously announced times on Wednesday (March 7) and Thursday (March 8).
The deorbit burn will kick off at 8:11 PM EST on Saturday (Sunday, March 12 at 0125 GMT). NASA coverage of the Crew-5 homecoming will begin at 08:00 PM EST (0100 GMT Sunday, March 12), and you can follow it on Space.com or live. NASA’s livestream page (opens in new tab).
Related: Auroras, spacecraft mods and more: SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts reflect on their time in orbit
Crew-5 launched on October 5, 2022 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It was a historic liftoff that made Mann the first Native American woman to reach space and Kikhina the first Russian to orbit a private American spacecraft.
Crew-5 astronauts have spent five months beyond Earth. They were treated to some beautiful auroral displays, for example, as two Russian vehicles docked to the ISS — a Soyuz crew-carrying craft and a robotic Progress cargo plane — leaked while the spacefliers stayed on the station.
Crew-5’s Dragon, named Endurance, was briefly modified to accommodate one additional passenger — NASA’s Frank Rubio, one of the three Soyuz astronauts — in case an emergency evacuation of the ISS was required. But those mods were removed last month, after Russia launched a replacement Soyuz that will carry Rubio and his two Russian crewmen to Earth this fall.
SpaceX’s mission to the ISS will remain after Crew-5’s liftoff: Crew-6 reached the orbiting lab early Friday morning (March 3) aboard Dragon Endeavour.
The Crew-6 astronauts — Woody Hoburg and Stephen Bowen of NASA, Sultan Al Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates and astronaut Andrey Fedayev — are scheduled to live on the ISS for the next six months.
By Mike Wall “outside (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelWall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) Or Facebook (opens in new tab).