A four-person crew of ISS astronauts have returned to Earth in a Dragon capsule called Endeavour.

The crew consisted of ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Aki Hoshide.
The crew consisted of ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Aki Hoshide. (AFP)

A SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts back to Earth after a busy six months on the International Space Station (ISS) landed off the coast of Florida.

It landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 0333 GMT (10:33 PM US Eastern Time), a NASA live broadcast showed, marking the end of the "Crew-2" mission.

Slowed by the Earth's atmosphere, as well as four huge parachutes, the Dragon capsule was able to withstand the dizzying descent thanks to its heat shield.

A boat will retrieve the capsule, and the astronauts on board will be brought back to land via helicopter.

SpaceX began providing astronauts a taxi service to the ISS in 2020, ending nine years of US reliance on Russian rockets for the journey following the end of the Space Shuttle program.

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'Minor medical issue'

Since arriving on April 24, the ISS Crew-2 consisting of two Americans, a Frenchman and one Japanese astronaut conducted hundreds of experiments and helped upgrade the station's solar panels.

Their activities have included documenting the planet's surface to record human-caused changes and natural events, growing Hatch chilli peppers and studying worms to better understand human health changes in space.

They boarded their Dragon, dubbed "Endeavour", and undocked from the ISS at 1905 GMT (2:05 pm), NASA announced.

Endeavour then looped around the ISS for around an hour-and-a-half to take photographs, the first such mission since a Russian Soyuz spaceship performed a similar manoeuvre in 2018.

The capsule, which flew mostly autonomously, has a small circular window at the top of its forward hatch through which the astronauts can point their cameras.

The crew's departure was delayed a day by high winds.

Bad weather and what NASA called a "minor medical issue" have also pushed back the launch of the next set of astronauts, on the Crew-3 mission, which is now set to launch Wednesday.

Until then, the ISS will be inhabited by only three astronauts, two Russians and one American.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies