NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts take off from the space station after Hurricane Italia devastates Florida

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Four astronauts ended their six-month stint aboard the International Space Station on Sunday and landed off the coast of Florida days after Hurricane Italia devastated parts of the state.

The astronauts, members of the Crew-6 mission jointly run by NASA and SpaceX, boarded their Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday and lifted off from the space station at 7:05 a.m. ET. The crew is expected to spend a day in the 13-foot-wide vehicle traveling through Earth’s orbit and toward its target landing site.

The Crew Dragon capsule is expected to blast off at 12:17 a.m. ET.

We are tracking the impact of Hurricane Italia, which made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast Wednesday morning, NASA said. The storm hit northern Florida, tearing through southern Georgia and the Carolinas.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoberg, along with the second astronaut of the United Arab Emirates, Sultan Alnyadi, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedayov are among the four astronauts headed for splashdown.

The team spent six months in the orbiting lab after launching to the station in March. Over the past week, Crew-6 astronauts have been working to welcome and handover operations to Crew-7 crew members who arrived at the space station on Sunday.

While they were in space, Crew-6 astronauts were scheduled to supervise More than 200 science and technology projects.

“We’ve done a lot during our mission,” Hoberg said during a remote news conference with the astronauts on Aug. 23. We, as a team, have conducted a total of three spacewalks.

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During their stay, the Crew-6 astronauts hosted the Axiom Mission 2 crew and a group of three paying customers, including a former NASA astronaut and an American businessman, as well as two astronauts from Saudi Arabia. The flight is part of a plan to regularly fly tourists and other paying customers to the International Space Station as NASA seeks to increase the scale of commercial operations in low-Earth orbit.

“It was a great adventure and a lot of fun,” Hoberg added.

The team recognized Frank Rubio, a NASA astronaut who traveled to the space station in a Russian Soyuz vehicle with two astronauts last September. Rubio has spent nearly 350 days aboard the space station and will soon break the record for longest time spent in microgravity by an American astronaut. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hey set the current record of 355 days in 2022.

Rubio’s return trip is planned for the spring. But the Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying him and two Russian colleagues to the space station suffered a coolant leak late last year. Officials at Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, later deemed the spacecraft not safe enough to carry the astronauts home and sent a replacement vehicle, extending the current mission by six months.

“We’ve been here for six months,” Hoberg said. “Frank thought he would be here for six months when he went into space, and found out that part of his mission extended that to a year. His leadership here … has been incredible.

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