In this image from video made available by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom capsule approaches surface of the Atlantic Ocean off Florida for splashdown on a return trip from the International Space Station on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. (NASA via AP)

SpaceX ferries astronauts back to Earth after half-year away

Four astronauts returned to Earth in a SpaceX capsule Friday, ending their nearly six-month space station mission with a splashdown in the Atlantic off Florida.

Wet and windy weather across Florida delayed their homecoming. SpaceX and NASA finally gave the all-clear on Friday, and the three Americans and one Italian departed the International Space Station, their residence since April.

The capsule parachuted into the ocean, just off Jacksonville, Florida, about five hours after it left the space station. It carried NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, the first Black woman to complete a long-term spaceflight, and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti. SpaceX delivered their replacements last week.

Before checking out, the astronauts said they couldn’t wait to have a cold drink with ice, eat some pizza and ice cream, take a shower, revel in nature and, of course, reunite with their families. NASA planned to hustle them to Houston once they were off SpaceX’s recovery ship and back on solid ground.

“Getting the first few hugs when we get back is really going to be awesome,” Hines told reporters earlier in the week.

Remaining aboard the space station are three Americans, three Russians and one Japanese.

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