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Four astronauts ended their six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Sunday and are heading for a touchdown off the coast of Florida, days after Hurricane Adalia battered parts of the state.
The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission jointly operated by NASA and SpaceX, boarded the Crew Dragon capsule Sunday and departed the space station at 7:05 a.m. ET. The crew is expected to spend one day aboard the 13-foot-wide craft as it maneuvers through Earth’s orbit toward its target landing site.
The Crew Dragon capsule is expected to land at 12:17 a.m. ET.
NASA said it is monitoring the impact of Hurricane Adalia, which made landfall Wednesday morning on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The storm hit northern Florida before sweeping through southern Georgia and the Carolinas.
Among the four astronauts heading for the descent are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, as well as Sultan Al Neyadi, the second astronaut from the United Arab Emirates to travel to 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 the Crew-7 team members, who arrived at the space station on Sunday.
During their time in space, Crew-6 astronauts were to supervise More than 200 scientific and technical projects.
“We’ve accomplished a lot during our mission,” Hoburgh said during a teleconference with the astronauts Aug. 23. And we, as a crew, have done a total of three spacewalks.
During their stay, the Crew-6 astronauts also hosted the Axiom Mission 2 crew, a group made up of a former NASA astronaut and three paying clients that included an American businessman and two astronauts from Saudi Arabia. That flight was part of a plan to fly tourists and other paying customers to the International Space Station as NASA sought to increase commercial activity in low Earth orbit.
“It was a great adventure and a lot of fun,” Hoburgh added.
The group also became acquainted with their colleague Frank Rubio, a NASA astronaut who traveled to the space station last September aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft accompanied by two astronauts. Rubio has spent nearly 350 days aboard the space station and is soon set to break the record for the longest time in microgravity by an American astronaut. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hay set the current record of 355 days in 2022.
Rubio’s return trip was scheduled for the spring. But the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which carried him and two Russian colleagues to the space station, developed a coolant leak late last year. Later, officials at Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, judged that the spacecraft was not safe enough to carry the cosmonauts home, so they sent a replacement vehicle and extended the ongoing mission by six months.
“We’ve been here for six months,” Hoburgh said. “Frank thought when he flew into space he was going to be here for six months, and halfway through his mission he found out it was a year. His leadership here… has been amazing.”