November 28, 2023

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4 astronauts return home from the space station after Hurricane Idalia

4 astronauts return home from the space station after Hurricane Idalia

(CNN) — Four astronauts ended their six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Sunday and are headed for a landing off the coast of Florida, days after Hurricane Idalia devastated part of the state.

The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission led by NASA and SpaceX, boarded the Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday and departed the space station at 7:05 a.m. ET. The crew is expected to spend a day aboard the 4-meter-wide vehicle as it maneuvers through Earth’s orbit toward its landing site.

The Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to land at 12:17 a.m. ET.

NASA said it detected the impact of Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall Wednesday morning on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The storm hit northern Florida before moving through southern Georgia and the Carolinas.

Among the four astronauts headed for the landing are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg; Sultan Al Neyadi, the second Emirati astronaut to travel to space; And Russian cosmonaut Andrei Fedyev.

The group spent six months aboard the orbiting laboratory after launching to the station He walks. Over the past week, Crew-6 astronauts have been working to welcome and hand over operations to Crew-7 team members, who They have arrived To the space station on Sunday.

During their stay in space, the Crew-6 astronauts planned supervision More than 200 scientific and technological projects.

“We did a lot during our mission,” Hoburg said during a remote news conference with the astronauts on August 23. “We had two visiting SpaceX cargo vehicles, missions CRS-27 and 28, with a lot of science on board. We, as a crew, did a total of three spacewalks.”

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During their stay, the Crew-6 astronauts also hosted the Axiom Mission 2 crew, a group consisting of a former NASA astronaut and three paying customers that included an American businessman and two Saudi astronauts. That flight was part of a plan to ferry tourists and other regularly 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,” Hoburg added.

The group also got to know their colleague Frank Rubio, a NASA astronaut who traveled to the space station last September aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with two astronauts. Rubio has spent nearly 350 days aboard the space station and will do so soon He will break the record The longest stay of an American astronaut in microgravity. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Heij set the current record of 355 days in 2022.

Rubio’s return trip was scheduled for the spring. But the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which transported him and two Russian colleagues to the space station, suffered a coolant leak late last year. Authorities at the Russian space agency Roscosmos later deemed the ship was not safe enough to transport astronauts home, so they sent a replacement vehicle and extended the current mission for six months.

“We’ve been here for six months,” Hoburg said. “When Frank flew into space, he thought he would be here for six months, and halfway through his mission he discovered that it had been extended to a year. His leadership here… has been amazing.”