NASA, SpaceX mission: Astronauts will return home from the International Space Station


The astronauts—NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, as well as Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, or ESA—will disembark from the ISS at 11:35 a.m. ET for Crew Dragon’s liftoff and splashdown. Florida’s coast could happen a few hours later, at 4:50 p.m. ET, according to a NASA press release.

The crew was originally scheduled to leave the ISS on Wednesday evening, but ground crews abandoned the attempt due to rough weather. The Storm also threw a second attempt on Thursday morning’s return.

As of Thursday afternoon, NASA was monitoring severe weather conditions at crew-designated splash zones, highlighting a cold front passing through Florida, according to a press release. Weather officials were more confident Friday’s weather would be more favorable as a high-pressure system moved into the area.

Weather forces delays to spacecraft launching or returning from the ISS are very common, especially in areas where unpredictable storms lash down the Florida coast.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft that will bring astronauts home can typically have seven landing sites: Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville near the coast.

This mission, called Crew-4, marks a historic first on the ISS, with Jessica Watkins becoming the first black woman to join the space station crew for an extended stay.

During their stay, the astronauts conducted a variety of science experiments, including how to grow vegetables in space without soil and studying the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

Those experiments are designed to help astronauts understand how they might one day grow their own food and how their bodies might react on missions deeper into space, such as NASA’s planned Artemis missions to the moon, Watkins said in a news release last week.

“It’s been amazing to walk into the Columbus module and smell the leaves growing, the plants growing,” Watkins told reporters.

Cristoforetti, who was on a previous mission to the ISS in 2014-2015, is the only woman in the ESA astronaut corps, and she made history on this mission. Last month, she took over as commander of the space station, becoming the first European woman to enter the role.

Cristoforetti also made a spacewalk in July to deploy several small satellites and install a new robotic arm to work outside the ISS.