Four astronauts returned to Earth in a SpaceX Dragon Crew capsule on Friday, ending their nearly six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida.
The capsule dubbed Freedom departed the International Space Station and parachuted into the ocean, just off Jacksonville, Florida, about five hours later.
It carried three Americans, NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins — the first Black woman to complete a long-term spaceflight — and one Italian, the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti.
Returning from orbit was followed by a fiery re-entry through Earth's atmosphere, generating frictional heat that raised temperatures outside the capsule to 1,930 degrees Celsius.
In less than an hour, recovery teams had hoisted the heat-scorched Crew Dragon onto a retrieval vessel before opening the capsule's side hatch and helping the four astronauts out.
Each of the returning astronauts was scheduled to undergo routine medical evaluations aboard the ship before being flown back to Florida by helicopter.
Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Samantha Cristoforetti are seen inside the SpaceX capsule Deutsche Welle
'Crew-5' on the ISS
The team has been dubbed "Crew-4," the fourth full-time crew of astronauts brought to the ISS by SpaceX since the private rocket company founded by Elon Musk began flying NASA personnel in May 2020.
As with most ISS crews, their primary role was science-based and included numerous experiments and technology demonstrations.
A week before Crew-4's exit, their replacement team Crew-5 arrived aboard the station — a Russian cosmonaut, a Japanese astronaut, and two NASA crew members, including the first Native American woman in orbit.
Crew-5 is remaining on ISS with two other Russians and a third American who shared a Soyuz flight to the ISS in September.