NASA, SpaceX mission: astronauts returning home from the International Space Station

NASA, SpaceX mission: astronauts returning home from the International Space Station
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The four astronauts are expected to board a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and return home from the International Space Station on Friday, ending their nearly six-month stay in the orbiting laboratory.

The astronauts – NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, as well as Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti with the European Space Agency or ESA – shared farewell hugs with other astronauts on the space station and docked with their spacecraft around 10am.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft has left its docking port on the ISS at noon ET and will fire up its engines several times to gradually lower its altitude. It is expected to splash down from Florida on Friday afternoon.

The crew was originally scheduled to leave the space station on Wednesday evening, but ground crews inclement weather. Storms also blocked a second attempt to return Thursday morning.

By Thursday afternoon, NASA was monitoring possible weather problems for the crew at designated splash areas, noting a cold front had passed through Florida, according to a statement. Weather officials relied on Friday’s weather to be more favorable as a high-pressure system was moved to the area.

Weather delays for spacecraft launch or return from the space station are common, especially when unforeseen storms cause splashes off Florida.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft that will bring the astronauts home is typically seven potential landing sites – Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, just off the coast of Daytona and Jacksonville.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting Jacksonville for Friday’s splash.

Dubbed Crew-4, this mission marked a historic first, with Watkins becoming the first Black woman to join the space station crew for an extended stay.

During their stay, the astronauts conducted scientific experiments, including research on how to grow vegetables in landless space and studying the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

Watkins said in a news briefing last week that these experiments are designed to help astronauts understand how they might one day grow their own food and how their bodies might respond to missions in deep space, such as NASA’s planned Artemis moon missions.

“It was great to be able to get into the Columbus module and smell the leaves growing, the plants growing,” Watkins told reporters.

Cristoforetti, who served on a previous mission to the space station in 2014-2015, is the only woman in ESA’s astronaut corps and made her own history on this mission. She took over command of the space station last month, becoming the first European woman to do so.

Cristoforetti also conducted a spacewalk to deploy it in July. small satellites and work on installing a new robotic arm outside the space station.

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