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Four astronauts on their way back to Earth aboard a SpaceX capsule

Four astronauts on their way back to Earth aboard a SpaceX capsule

After spending nearly six months in space, three American and German astronauts have begun the journey back to Earth aboard a SpaceX capsule, which is scheduled to land off Florida during the night from Thursday to Friday.

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The Dragon capsule separated from the International Space Station at 01:20 AM EST (05:20 GMT).

Americans Kayla Baron, Raja Chari and Tom Marshburne, as well as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, must spend nearly 24 hours aboard the capsule before touching the sea, at 00:43 on Friday (04:43 GMT) .

The spectacular descent would be slowed by re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and then by massive parachutes. The capsule will then be picked up by an Elon Musk ship, and once lifted aboard, it will finally open to allow the astronauts to egress.

This crew, called Crew-3, spent its last days aboard the International Space Station carrying out the delivery with Crew-4, also made up of four astronauts (three Americans and one Italian). The latter had taken off from Florida about a week ago, also with SpaceX.

There are currently three Russians aboard the International Space Station, who have arrived for their departure with a Russian Soyuz rocket.

This will be the sixth landing of SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule, which now regularly transports astronauts to the International Space Station on behalf of NASA.

Matthias Maurer is the 12th German to fly into orbit. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Twitter wished him a “safe trip home,” highlighting his work “and all the new discoveries made in space.”

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Crew-3 members have conducted multiple science experiments. For example, they studied how cement hardens in weightlessness – which may be of interest for future constructions, for example on the moon. The second harvest of peppers was carried out on the back of the station.

During their stay, they also received a visit from a special mission, including three businessmen, who each paid tens of millions of dollars to spend two weeks aboard the International Space Station – still flown by SpaceX.