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Four astronauts wrapped up their six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Sunday and headed for a splashdown off the coast of Florida days after Hurricane Idalia devastated parts of the state.
The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission led jointly by NASA and SpaceX, boarded their Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday and left the space station at 7:05 a.m. ET. The crew is expected to spend a day aboard the 13-foot-wide vehicle as it maneuvers through Earth’s orbit toward its target landing site.
The Crew Dragon capsule is expected to touch down at 12:17 am ET.
NASA said it had been monitoring the impact of Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall Wednesday morning on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The storm ripped through northern Florida before moving through southern Georgia and into the Carolinas.
The four astronauts headed for the landing include NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, as well as Sultan Alneyadi, the second United Arab Emirates astronaut to travel to space, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
The group spent six months aboard the orbiting laboratory after launch to the station in March. Over the past week, Crew-6 astronauts have worked to welcome and hand over operations to Crew-7 team members, who arrive at the space station on Sunday.
During their time in space, the Crew-6 astronauts were required to supervise More than 200 science and technology projects..
“We did a lot of things during our mission,” Hoburg said during a remote press conference with the astronauts on Aug. 23. “We had two visiting SpaceX cargo vehicles: CRS-27 and 28 missions with a lot of science on board. And we as a crew did a total of three spacewalks.”
During their stay, the Crew-6 astronauts also hosted the Axiom Mission 2 crew, a group of a former NASA astronaut and three paying clients including an American businessman and two Saudi Arabian astronauts. That flight was part of a plan to regularly bring tourists and other paying customers to the International Space Station as NASA has tried to increase the amount of commercial activity in low-Earth orbit.
“It’s been a great adventure and a lot of fun,” added Hoburg.
The group also recognized their colleague Frank Rubio, a NASA astronaut who traveled to the space station last September aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle along with two cosmonauts. Rubio has spent nearly 350 days aboard the space station and will soon be ready to break the record longer than an American astronaut has spent in microgravity. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei set the current record of 355 days in 2022.
Rubio’s return trip was scheduled for the spring. But the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that carried him and two Russian colleagues to the space station suffered a coolant leak late last year. Officials at Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, later deemed the spacecraft not safe enough to carry the astronauts back home, then sent a replacement vehicle and extended the ongoing mission by six months.
“We’ve been here for six months,” Hoburg said. “Frank thought that when he flew into space he would be here for six months, and halfway through the mission he found out that it was extended to a year. The leadership from him here… has been incredible.”