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Four astronauts have returned home after a six-month stay on the International Space Station, landing aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule off the coast of Florida on Monday.
The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission jointly operated by NASA and SpaceX, left the space station Sunday at 7:05 a.m. ET. The crew spent the day aboard the 13-foot-wide Crew Dragon as it maneuvered through Earth’s orbit toward the target landing site off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, where they landed just after midnight ET.
The Crew Dragon capsule was traveling at more than 17,000 mph (27,000 kph), and when it began the final leg of its descent, the spacecraft’s exterior had heated to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius) as it fissioned back. to the thickest part of the Earth’s atmosphere. Inside the spacecraft cabin, passengers were protected by a heat shield and had to be kept at comfortable temperatures well below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).
The capsule then deployed sets of parachutes to slow its descent further. Rescue crews waiting near the spacecraft’s crash site are ready to tow the spacecraft from the ocean to a special boat called the Dragon’s Nest, where final safety checks will be carried out before the crew can disembark.
Before the astronauts left the space station, NASA said it was monitoring the impact of Hurricane Adalia, which made landfall Wednesday morning on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The storm hit northern Florida before sweeping through southern Georgia and the Carolinas.
The four astronauts who make up Crew-6 include NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, as well as Sultan Al Neyadi, the second astronaut from the United Arab Emirates to go into space, and Russian cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev.
The group spent six months aboard the orbiting laboratory after launching to the station in March. Over the past week, Crew-6 astronauts have worked to welcome and hand over operations to the Crew-7 team members, who arrived at the space station on Aug. 27.
During their time in space, Crew-6 astronauts were to oversee more than 200 science and technology projects.
“We’ve accomplished a lot during our mission,” Hoburgh said during a teleconference with the astronauts Aug. 23. And we, as a crew, have done a total of three spacewalks.
During their stay, the Crew-6 astronauts also hosted the Axiom Mission 2 crew, a group made up of a former NASA astronaut and three paying clients that included an American businessman and two astronauts from Saudi Arabia. That flight was part of a plan to fly tourists and other paying customers to the International Space Station, as NASA sought to increase commercial activity in low Earth orbit.
“It was a great adventure and a lot of fun,” Hoburgh added.
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