Four astronauts will take their first breath of fresh air after nearly six months in space early Friday morning, shortly after they splash down in a SpaceX Crew Dragon off Florida's coast.
NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, Tom Marshburn and European Space Agency astronauts Matthias Maurer are en route to Earth after departing the International Space Station just after 1 a.m. ET.
The astronauts part of NASA's Crew-3 mission are traveling toward Earth in Dragon Endurance and are scheduled to splash down at 12:43 a.m. ET Friday.
NASA AND RUSSIA CONTINUE SPACE EXPLORATION TOGETHER 'DESPITE THE HORRORS' IN UKRAINE
As the Dragon is heading back to Earth, it will travel at around 17,500 mph. As the spacecraft hits Earth's atmosphere, it will begin to slow down and then use drogue and main parachutes to make a gentle splashdown at 1 to 2 mph.
Mission managers in Houston keep a close watch on the weather conditions off Florida's coasts for safe splashdown conditions.
Ahead of the unlocking, SpaceX and NASA teams selected primary and backup splashdown locations where recovery teams will be waiting for the Dragon capsule.
The splashdown will happen at one of the following seven locations off the coast of Florida: Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville.
Their arrival home will conclude a long-duration mission in orbit that started with a launch in November from Kennedy Space Center.
Last week, SpaceX launched the Crew-4 astronauts to the ISS, marking the fourth long-term spaceflight part of the Commercial Crew Program for NASA. Later this month, Boeing is set to launch its astronaut spacecraft called the CST-100 Starliner to the ISS, completing the final test before being certified to fly crew.