(CNN) — Four astronauts have returned home after a six-month stay on the International Space Station and touched down on the Florida coast Monday aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission led by NASA and SpaceX, left the space station Sunday at 7:05 a.m. ET. The crew spent the day aboard the 4-meter-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 entered the final leg of its descent, the spacecraft’s exterior temperature rose to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius) as it descended. It sank deeper into the denser part of Earth’s atmosphere. Inside the ship’s cabin, passengers were protected by a heat shield and a comfortable temperature was supposed to be kept well below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).
The capsule then deployed a series of parachutes to slow its descent further. Rescue teams waiting near the landing site prepared to lift the ship from the ocean to a special vessel 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 swept through northern Florida before ravaging southern Georgia and the Carolinas.
The four astronauts who make up Crew 6 are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, in addition to Sultan Al Neyadi, the second Emirati astronaut to launch into space, and Russian cosmonaut Andrei Vidyaev.
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 members of Crew 7, who arrived at the space station on August 27.
During their stay in space, the crew of 6 astronauts was to supervise more than 200 science and technology projects.
“We did a lot of things during our mission,” Hoburgh said during a teleconference with the astronauts on Aug. 23. “We’ve visited two SpaceX cargo vehicles, missions CRS-27 and 28, with lots of science on board. As a crew, we’ve taken a total of three spacewalks.”
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 clients that included an American businessman and two Saudi astronauts. That flight was part of a plan to bring tourists and other paying customers regularly to the International Space Station as NASA tried to increase commercial activity in low Earth orbit.
“It was a great adventure and a lot of fun,” Hoburgh added.
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