Four astronauts boarded a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and returned residence from the International Space Station on Friday, bringing an finish to their almost six-month keep aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The astronauts — NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins in addition to Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti with the European Space Agency or ESA — shared goodbye hugs with different astronauts on the house station and strapped into their spacecraft round 10 a.m. ET.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft left its docking port on the ISS round midday ET and made a gradual trek residence towards the sting of Earth’s thick inside ambiance. Then, the capsule lit up its thrusters once more to orient itself because it started its reentry. This step started to sluggish the spacecraft from its orbital velocity of about 17,500 miles per hour (28,164 kilometers per hour). A warmth protect stored the astronauts protected because the fiery swoop again towards Earth heated the spacecraft’s exterior to greater than 3,000 levels Fahrenheit (1,650 levels Celsius).
A plume of parachutes then slowed its descent additional earlier than it got here to a splashdown touchdown off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, simply earlier than 5 p.m. ET. Rescue ships waited close by and hauled the spacecraft out of the water, permitting the astronauts to exit the capsule and take their first breaths of contemporary air in about 170 days.
This mission, referred to as Crew-4, has marked a historic first, with Watkins changing into the primary Black girl to hitch the house station crew for an prolonged keep.
During their keep, the astronauts carried out science experiments, together with analysis on how you can develop greens in house with out soil and the examine of spaceflight results on the human physique.
Those experiments are designed to assist astronauts perceive how they could at some point develop their very own meals and the way their our bodies might react on missions deeper into house, reminiscent of on NASA’s deliberate Artemis moon missions, Watkins mentioned throughout a information briefing final week.
“It’s been superior to have the ability to stroll into the Columbus module and odor the odor of leaves rising, of crops rising,” Watkins informed reporters.
Cristoforetti, who was on one earlier mission to the house station in 2014-2015, is the only girl in ESA’s astronaut corps, and he or she made historical past of her personal on this mission. Last month, she took over as commander of the house station, changing into the primary European girl to take action.
Cristoforetti additionally carried out a spacewalk in July to deploy small satellites and work on the set up of a brand new robotic arm on the house station’s exterior.