SpaceX Astronauts Return to Earth After 200-Day Flight

by Michael Freeman

Almost as exciting as a launch into space is when astronauts return to Earth safely. On that note, last night, four SpaceX astronauts came back after spending 200 days in space.

Coming back aboard SpaceX’s signature Dragon capsule, the four astronauts touched down last night. The capsule splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Shortly afterward, recovery boats picked them up. Returning from the International Space Station (ISS), the four were due back Monday morning. However, high winds delayed them until the evening, The New York Post reports.

“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome home to Planet Earth,” SpaceX Mission Control greeted them from Southern California. The four astronauts aboard were NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide from Japan, and France’s Thomas Pesquet. Though the mission as a whole went well, there were some toilet troubles they faced on the way back.

McArthur commented on Friday about the problem being “suboptimal,” but it’s something they just had to grin and bear. “Spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges,” she stated. “This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission.” She then said the problem doesn’t worry her.

Since the four astronauts landed back on Earth, another four will go back up. With luck and barring anything unfortunate, the next four will go Wednesday night. They too will travel to the ISS for six months. Aboard the station, an American and two Russian astronauts will be there to greet them.

SpaceX Experienced Toilet Troubles Before This Flight

Though low on the totem pole of space priorities, not having adequate bathroom facilities would make anyone uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the recent issue astronauts faced with their toilet isn’t the first problem SpaceX has had in that area.

Back in September during SpaceX’s first private launch, the Associated Press detailed the toilet troubles astronauts faced. According to them, SpaceX Vice President William Gerstenmaier stated a tube in the Dragon capsule came unglued. This caused urine to spill into fans beneath the floor. Additionally, this happened inside the Dragon capsule while docked at the space station.

To remedy the issue, SpaceX will weld on the tube that’s inside its newer capsule, Endurance. With German-U.S. crews working on it, they’re hoping to permanently fix the issue. Nonetheless, NASA astronaut Raja Chari, the spacecraft commander, will continuously monitor the situation. He states being confident about the repairs but will check to be safe.

Gerstenmaier also added SpaceX is running tests to make sure the urine pooled onto the craft didn’t weaken it in any way. NASA will take part in the final tests and it’s suspected the suggested fix is all the capsule will need.