SpaceX returns 4 astronauts to Earth, ending 200-day flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — 4 astronauts returned to Earth on Monday, using dwelling with SpaceX to finish a 200-day house station mission that started final spring.

Their capsule streaked by the late evening sky like a blinding meteor earlier than parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Restoration boats rapidly moved in with spotlights.

“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome dwelling to Planet Earth,” SpaceX Mission Management radioed from Southern California.

Their homecoming — coming simply eight hours after leaving the Worldwide House Station — paved the best way for SpaceX’s launch of their 4 replacements as early as Wednesday evening.

The newcomers have been scheduled to launch first, however NASA switched the order due to unhealthy climate and an astronaut’s undisclosed medical situation. The welcoming duties will now fall to the lone American and two Russians left behind on the house station.

Earlier than Monday afternoon’s undocking, German astronaut Matthias Maurer, who’s ready to launch at NASA’s Kennedy House Middle, tweeted it was a disgrace the 2 crews wouldn’t overlap on the house station however “we belief you’ll depart the whole lot good and tidy.” His can be SpaceX’s fourth crew flight for NASA in simply 1 1/2 years.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and France’s Thomas Pesquet ought to have been again Monday morning, however excessive wind within the restoration zone delayed their return.

“Yet another evening with this magical view. Who may complain? I’ll miss our spaceship!” Pesquet tweeted Sunday alongside a short video displaying the house station illuminated in opposition to the blackness of house and the twinkling metropolis lights on the nighttime aspect of Earth.

From the house station, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei — halfway by a one-year flight — bade farewell to every of his departing associates, telling McArthur “I’ll miss listening to your laughter in adjoining modules.”

Earlier than leaving the neighborhood, the 4 took a spin across the house station, taking photos. This was a primary for SpaceX; NASA’s shuttles used to do it on a regular basis earlier than their retirement a decade in the past. The final Russian capsule fly-around was three years in the past.

It wasn’t probably the most snug journey again. The bathroom of their capsule was damaged, and so the astronauts wanted to put on diapers for the eight-hour journey dwelling. They shrugged it off late final week as only one extra problem of their mission.

The primary subject arose shortly after their April liftoff; Mission Management warned a bit of house junk was threatening to hit their capsule. It turned out to be a false alarm. Then in July, thrusters on a newly arrived Russian lab inadvertently fired and despatched the station right into a spin. The 4 astronauts took shelter of their docked SpaceX capsule, able to make a hasty departure if crucial.

Among the many upbeat milestones: 4 spacewalks to boost the station’s solar energy, a movie-making go to by a Russian movie crew; and the first-ever house harvest of chile peppers.

The following crew may even spend six months up there, welcoming back-to-back teams of vacationers. A Japanese tycoon and his private assistant will get a carry from the Russian House Company in December, adopted by three businessmen arriving through SpaceX in February. SpaceX’s first privately chartered flight, in September, bypassed the house station.

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