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SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon successfully splashes down on Earth after leaving space station

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SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon successfully splashes down on Earth after leaving space station
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Aki Hoshide reacts to a comment after being helped out of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship after he and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, on Monday, November 8, 2021. NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission is the second operational mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program. NASA Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/UPI | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Four astronauts left the International Space Station and made their fiery journey through Earth's atmosphere to a splashdown near Pensacola, Fla., on Monday night.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule's landed in the water at 10:33 p.m. EST, bringing the Crew-2 mission, which lasted six months, to a close.

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Boats were quickly deployed to retrieve the four crew members Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough of NASA, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency.

"It's great to be back on planet earth," Kimbrough told mission control from inside the capsule shortly after splashdown.

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About 40 minutes after the splashdown the capsule was pried open as they made their way to be examined by medical personnel.

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The crew undocked their Endeavour capsule at 2:05 p.m. EST a little more than 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean near Chile.

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Crew Dragon completed a 16-minute de-orbit burn, passing a point of no return and slowing to about 260 mph from roughly 17,000 mph at about 9:56 p.m. EST.

Shortly later parachutes were deployed as the capsule continued its descent before being cut as it made its way into the water.

"Bittersweet feeling to leave ... a magical place in the sky that grants superpowers like floating and seeing [Earth] at a glance," Pesquet tweeted Monday morning. "It gives me hope that humans can achieve anything, with good intentions, when we want to."

The Crew-2 departure leaves the space station with only three people on board: NASA's Mark Vande Hei and Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia's Roscosmos.

NASA and SpaceX postponed the departure Sunday due to high winds unfavorable for recovery of the capsule near a splashdown zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The space agency will announce a new splashdown location on Monday in either the Gulf or the Atlantic Ocean.

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The spacecraft also will return to Earth with about 530 pounds of hardware and science experiments on board.

SpaceX plans to send the capsule around the space station Monday so that NASA can obtain new imagery of the orbiting facility's exterior.

The planned duration of the fly-around maneuver is about 90 minutes, NASA announcer Gary Jordan said during a live broadcast.

"Vande Hei will move over to the cupula [window] and it'll be his job to monitor Dragon's departure as well as the fly-around maneuver," Jordan said.

NASA postponed launching the next astronaut crew, SpaceX Crew-3, due to weather and an undisclosed astronaut medical problem. The agency plans to launch those four astronauts as early as 9:03 p.m. Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew-2 return was the third time astronauts have returned to Earth in a SpaceX capsule, following the Crew-1 return in May and a demonstration flight that returned in August 2020.

SpaceX Crew-2's historic mission to International Space Station

From left to right, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., on November 8. Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA | License Photo

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