Update for 3 a.m. March 11: The four Crew-5 astronauts of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endurance are on their way back to Earth for a planned splashdown tonight at 9:02 p.m. ET (0202 GMT on March 12). You can watch their splashdown live here starting at 8 pm ET (0100 GMT).
SpaceX's Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA departed the International Space Station on Saturday (March 11) at 2:20 a.m. EST (0720 GMT) after more than five months in space.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying the Crew-5 quartet — NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina and Japan's Koichi Wakata — undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:20 a.m. EST (0720 GMT) on Saturday.
"It's been overwhelming to be at the International Space Station," NASA astronaut Josh Cassada said after the capsule backed away from the orbital outpost. "The crew are incredibly proud of the work we've accomplished while we were there. We are excited to get back to that beautiful planet of ours and those wonderful people there."
NASA delayed the departure from the ISS twice due to weather concerns from previous announced timings on Wednesday (March 7) and Thursday (March 8).
The deorbit burn kicking off splashdown will occur at 8:11 p.m. EST on Saturday (0125 GMT on Sunday, March 12) with splashdown expected to occur around 9:02 p.m. EST on Saturday (0202 GMT on March 12). NASA coverage of Crew-5's return home will resume at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT on March 12) and you an follow it on Space.com or directly via NASA's livestream page.
Crew-5 launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Oct. 5, 2022. It was a historic liftoff, making Mann the first Native American woman to reach space and Kikina the first Russian to fly to orbit on a private American spacecraft.
The Crew-5 astronauts have spent an eventful five months off Earth. They've been treated to some gorgeous auroral displays, for example, and two Russian vehicles docked to the ISS — a Soyuz crew-carrying craft and a robotic Progress freighter — sprang leaks during the spaceflyers' stay on the station.
Crew-5's Dragon, named Endurance, was briefly modified to accommodate an extra passenger — one of the three Soyuz astronauts, NASA's Frank Rubio — in case an emergency evacuation of the ISS were required. But those mods were removed last month, after Russia launched a replacement Soyuz that will take Rubio and his two Russian crewmates home to Earth this fall.
There will still be a SpaceX mission at the ISS after Crew-5 departs: Crew-6 arrived at the orbiting lab early Friday morning (March 3) aboard the Dragon Endeavour.
The Crew-6 astronauts — NASA's Woody Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, the United Arab Emirates' Sultan Al Neyadi and cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev — are scheduled to live aboard the ISS for the next six months.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.