NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission is scheduled to return to Earth from the International Space Station on March 11.

Koichi Wakata speaks from the International Space Station on Dec. 16, 2022. (Kyodo)

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance by the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts on its maiden voyage, will undock from the space station at 2:05 a.m. EST to begin the journey home.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 9:19 p.m. EST Saturday for a splashdown that will wrap up a nearly six-month science mission for NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

Splashdown will occur at one of seven targeted landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The spacecraft also will return time-sensitive research to Earth.

JAXA Vice President Hiroshi Sasaki and other officials will participate in a media teleconference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Wakata arrived at the ISS last October aboard a SpaceX spacecraft to begin his fifth space mission, a new record for a Japanese astronaut. At 59 he is also the oldest Japanese astronaut.

His previous space flights were on U.S. space shuttles in 1996, 2000 and 2009, and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2013. The current mission is his third long-term expedition at the ISS.

Wakata, who has accumulated more than a year in space, called the ending of this mission “bittersweet,” adding, “It’s been a real pleasure to work with you, and I have been a really lucky person to be able to work with this super crew.”

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