Four astronauts landed on the coast of Florida, ending a six-month mission

(CNN) — Four astronauts returned home from a six-month stint on the International Space Station and landed off the coast of Florida on Monday in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.

The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission jointly led by NASA and SpaceX, lifted off from the space station at 7:05 a.m. ET on Sunday. The crew spent the day aboard the 4-meter-wide Crew Dragon vehicle, maneuvering into Earth orbit toward its target landing site in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, when it touched down shortly after midnight ET.

The Crew Dragon capsule was traveling at 17,000 miles per hour (27,000 kilometers per hour), and as it entered the final phase of its descent, the exterior of the spacecraft heated up to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius). Plunged deep into the densest part of Earth’s atmosphere. Inside the ship’s cabin, passengers were protected by heat shields and the temperature had to be comfortably below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).

The capsule deployed a series of parachutes to further slow its descent. Rescue teams waiting near the splashdown site prepared to lift the vessel from the sea and transfer it to a special vessel known as the “Dragon’s Nest”, where final safety checks would be carried out before the crew disembarked.

Before the astronauts left the space station, NASA said it was monitoring the impact of Hurricane Italia, which made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast Wednesday morning. The storm tore through northern Florida before tearing through southern Georgia and the Carolinas.

The four astronauts who make up Crew-6 are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoberg, as well as the second United Arab Emirates astronaut in space, Sultan Alnyadi, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedayev.

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The team spent six months in the orbiting lab after launching to the station in March. Over the past week, Crew 6 astronauts have welcomed and handed over operations to Crew 7 crew members who arrived at the space station on August 27.

During their stay in space, the 6 astronauts were scheduled to oversee more than 200 scientific and technological projects.

“We’ve done a lot of things during our mission,” Hoberg said during a remote press conference with the astronauts on Aug. 23. “We visited two SpaceX cargo vehicles, missions CRS-27 and 28, which had a lot of science. And we did a total of three spacewalks as a team.”

During their stay, the Crew-6 astronauts also entertained the Axiom Mission 2 crew with three paying customers, including a former NASA astronaut and an American businessman and two Saudi Arabian astronauts. The flight was part of a program that regularly brings tourists and other paying customers to the International Space Station as NASA tries to increase commercial operations in low Earth orbit.

“It was a great adventure and a lot of fun,” Hoberg added.

Misty Tate

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