After nearly six months in space, three NASA astronauts and one European astronaut are back on Earth Friday after splashing down off Florida's east coast.
Due to weather delays, NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines and Kjell Lindgren, along with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti spent two extra days on the International Space Station rounding out their mission to 177 days in space.
The Crew-4 astronauts were scheduled to depart the International Space Station on Thursday morning aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. However, mission managers with NASA and SpaceX stood down from the Crew Dragon spacecraft departure due to winds forecast off Florida's coast in the splashdown area.
This was the second planned departure for the Crew-4 astronauts delayed by the weather this week.
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The forecast improved enough for another attempt to bring the crew home on Friday and the weather off Jacksonville's coast was beautiful for splashdown with calm seas.
On Friday morning, the astronauts got settled inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft and closed the hatch around 10 a.m. to prepare for their journey home. The spacecraft autonomously backed away from the space station docking port at 12:05 p.m. ET Friday.
After a few departure burns and re-entry maneuvers, the Crew-4 astronauts splashed down off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, at 4:55 p.m., where recovery teams were waiting.
According to NASA, people in the Southeast might have been able to see or hear the Dragon spacecraft as it returned to Earth. Right before splash down, those in southeastern Georgia had the best chance of seeing the capsule and possibly hearing a sonic boom as it reentered Earth's atmosphere.
The Crew Dragon capsule can splash down in one of seven locations around the Florida peninsula. Mission managers consider wave height, wind and rain before deciding where the Dragon lands.
A cold front passing over Florida earlier in the week brought high winds and rain near the splashdown zones on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Quick trip home
With the undocking on Friday, the astronauts had a fast trip back to Earth in less than six hours, a short journey compared to their 16-hour spaceflight after launching in April.
With the help of a parachute system to slow from over 350 mph to about 1 mph, the Crew Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville.
SpaceX and NASA teams were waiting on the recovery boat named Megan to collect the Dragon and its crew from the water with support from NASA and the U.S. Coast Guard.
SpaceX recently launched the latest batch of ISS residents from Kennedy Space Center, marking the fifth mission under NASA's Commercial Crew Program and the first with a Russian cosmonaut.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon delivered the Crew-5 mission with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the ISS on Oct. 6.