The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts seemed to be enjoying themselves as they tested out their spacesuits ahead of their return to Earth next week from the International Space Station.
In new photos, the Crew-3 astronauts can be seen smiling in their now-iconic black-and-white SpaceX spacesuits and helmets, making full use of the lack of gravity. The crew, which includes NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, posed for a couple photos while they performed a fit check with their Dragon spacesuits on April 21 ahead of their departure from the station.
The crew will put their suits back on when they board their Dragon and undock from the International Space Station, which could be on Star Wars Day, or May the 4th, Steve Stich, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida manager, said during a news conference following the Crew-4 launch on Wednesday (April 27).
Currently, the team is working towards undocking "around May 4 for Crew-3 and then a landing probably about one day later on May 5 if the weather's good," Stich said.
The Crew-3 astronauts launched to the station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, named Endurance by the crew, atop a Falcon 9 rocket on November 10, 2021 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. This was the Dragon's first flight to space as well as the first spaceflight for crew astronauts Chari, Barron and Maurer; Marshburn is the only crewmember who had flown to space previously.
The Crew-4 astronauts launched early on April 27 and arrived later that night. The astronauts will have a few days for a "handover period" during which the previous crew readies the newcomers for their mission and "hands over the reins," so-to-speak.
Crew-3 was the fourth crewed launch for SpaceX, following the Crew-2, Crew-1 and Demo-2 missions to the space station. Crew-4 makes five and it doesn't look like SpaceX will be slowing down any time soon.
The company continues to launch crewed missions to the station with its Falcon 9 rocket aboard its Dragon capsule under a contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is also contracted within that program to develop and build a crew capsule to ferry astronauts to space and back. The first uncrewed test flight of its capsule, Starliner, in 2019 didn't go as planned and the company is currently working toward a second uncrewed test flight, set to launch this year.