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Four astronauts crash land off the coast of Florida, ending a 5-month mission

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Four space station astronauts returned to Earth late Saturday after a quick SpaceX return flight.

Their capsule crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Florida near Tampa.

The American-Russian-Japanese crew spent five months on the International Space Station and arrived last October. In addition to dodging space debris, the astronauts had to contend with a pair of leaking Russian pods docked at the orbiting outpost and the urgent delivery of a replacement craft for the remaining crew members. from the station.

Led by NASA’s Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to fly in space, the astronauts departed the station early Saturday morning. Less than 19 hours later, their Dragon capsule was floating in the sea waiting to be retrieved.

Earlier in the week, high winds and waves in the splash zones kept them at the station for a few more days. Their replacements arrived more than a week ago.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Mann said over the radio moments after the splash. “We are happy to be home.”

Clockwise from left, Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata inside the International Space Station on March 1.NASA via AP

Mann, a member of the Northern California Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, said she can’t wait to feel the wind in her face, smell the fresh grass and savor delicious food from the Earth.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata craved sushi, while Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina longed for hot tea “from a real cup, not a plastic bag”.

NASA astronaut Josh Cassada’s to-do list included getting a rescue dog for his family. “Please don’t tell our two cats,” he joked before leaving the space station.

Remaining on the space station are three Americans, three Russians and one from the United Arab Emirates.

Wakata, Japan’s spaceflight champion, has now logged more than 500 days in space during five missions dating back to NASA’s shuttle era.

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