SpaceX capsule splashdown: Astronauts back on Earth

A crew of four astronauts and their capsule safely blazed through 3,500-degree temperatures generated by atmospheric friction Friday afternoon, bringing an end to their six-month science mission on the International Space Station.

After the fiery re-entry, NASA’s Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Jessica Watkins, and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti splashed down off the Jacksonville coast at 4:50 p.m. EDT. Their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, named “Freedom,” departed the ISS nearly five hours earlier.

“Thank you for an incredible ride up to orbit and an incredible ride home,” Lindgren said after mission control confirmed the capsule was “stable-1,” or in the correct upright position. “Glad to be back.”

After splashdown, recovery forces approached the 17,000-pound capsule in an area cordoned off by the Coast Guard and confirmed no toxic propellants were leaking from the Draco thrusters. A recovery ship then hoisted Dragon onto its rear deck, where Crew-4’s astronauts egressed and stood in full gravity for the first time since launch from Kennedy Space Center on April 27.

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After quick medical checkouts on the recovery ship, the crew was to be transported back to the mainland by helicopter. From there, NASA crews are transported back to Houston, Texas, while European astronauts – in this case, Cristoforetti – fly directly back to Europe.

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