March 14, 2023
TOKYO — Astronaut Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) returned to Earth on Saturday with three crewmates from the International Space Station (ISS).
A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft left the ISS carrying the crew in the wee hours of the morning, then opened up its parachutes after entering the Earth’s atmosphere. It splashed down off the coast of Florida at about 9 p.m. and was retrieved by a recovery ship.
Wakata and his crewmates from the United States and Russia had been on the ISS for an extended stay since October. This was Wakata’s fourth time on the space station.
With five overall space missions, Wakata has been to space more often than any other astronaut from Japan and has been in space for a total of 504 days, also a Japan record. The 59-year-old is also the oldest Japanese astronaut to have flown in space.
During his latest stay in space, Wakata spacewalked for the first time in his life and did it twice.
Upon arrival after being brought out of the Space X Crew Dragon capsule, Wakata looked to be in good spirits as he bumped fists and exchanged smiles and pleasantries with recovery team members.
In a post on his Twitter account on Sunday, Wakata said he is undergoing a medical examination at an isolation facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “I am grateful to all the many people who have supported my return,” he wrote.