Cape Canaveral, Fla. — Four astronauts from space stations returned to Earth late Saturday after a quick SpaceX flight home.
Their capsule fell into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida near Tampa.
The American-Russian-Japanese crew spent five months on the International Space Station, arriving last October. Besides dodging space junk, the astronauts had to deal with a pair of leaky Russian capsules docked at the orbital outpost and the urgent delivery of a replacement vehicle to the station’s other crew members.
Led by NASA’s Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to fly in space, the astronauts left the station early Saturday morning. Less than 19 hours later, their Dragon capsule was bobbing in the sea as they waited for capture.
Earlier in the week, high winds and waves kept them in splash areas on the station for a few extra days. Their replacements arrived over a week ago.
“It was one trip,” Mann radioed moments after splashing out. “We are glad to be home.”
Mann, a member of the Northern California Wailacki of the Rhubarb Valley Indian tribes, said she can’t wait to feel the wind on her face, smell the fresh grass and enjoy some delicious earth food.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata craved sushi, while Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina craved hot tea “from a real mug, not from a plastic bag.”
NASA astronaut Josh Cassada’s to-do list included getting a rescue dog for his family. “Please don’t tell our cats,” he joked before leaving the space station.
Three Americans, three Russians, and one from the United Arab Emirates remain on the space station.
Wakata, the Japanese spaceflight hero, has now logged more than 500 days in space during five missions dating back to NASA’s shuttle era.
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