Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata returns to Earth after 5-month ISS mission

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Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata returns to Earth after 5-month ISS mission

Tokyo, March 12, Jiji Press -- Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata returned to Earth on Sunday after a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon capsule carrying Wakata and three other astronauts landed in waters off the U.S., state of Florida around 11 a.m. Japan time 2 a.m. The capsule was pulled up by a ship, and the hatch opened around 11: 40 a.m. Wakata was the third to get off, smiling and looking healthy.

Wakata, 59, does not seem to have any health problems, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

The crew dragon, developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or SpaceX, was separated from the ISS at 4: 20 p.m. Saturday.

After the final injection to leave the orbit around 10: 10 a.m. Sunday, the capsule entered the atmosphere, opened the parachute and splashed down onto the sea.

Wakata arrived at the ISS in October of last year, having traveled for the fifth time. The last mission has boosted the total number of days he spent in space to 504 days, the longest for a Japanese astronaut.

During his stay in the ISS, he carried out a number of experiments mainly in the Japanese experiment module Kibo.

He also participated in activities that are considered useful for the international lunar exploration project Artemis, in which Japan is set to participate. These include the collection of basic technical data for a manned lunar vehicle under development and a demonstration of a next-generation water recovery system.

In January and February he conducted extravehicular activities, including the installation of a mounting platform for a new solar cell of the ISS. The first round marked his debut in extravehicular activities.

Wakata boarded a U.S. space shuttle and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft before he boarded a Crew Dragon. He has made round trips to space using all three types, just as his predecessors Soichi Noguchi, 57, and Akihiko Hoshide, 54.