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Astronauts return to earth after 200-day SpaceX mission.

Four astronauts have returned to earth after a 200-day space station mission.

Their SpaceX capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, in darkness on Monday. Recovery boats quickly moved in with spotlights.

Their homecoming — coming just eight hours after leaving the International Space Station — paved the way for SpaceX’s launch of their four replacements as early as Wednesday night.

The newcomers were scheduled to launch first, but Nasa switched the order because of bad weather and an astronaut’s undisclosed medical condition.

The welcoming duties will now fall to the lone American and two Russians left behind at the space station.

Before Monday afternoon’s undocking, German astronaut Matthias Maurer, who is waiting to launch at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre, tweeted it was a shame the two crews would not overlap at the space station but “we trust you’ll leave everything nice and tidy”.

His will be SpaceX’s fourth crew flight for Nasa in just one-and-a-half years.

Nasa astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and France’s Thomas Pesquet should have been back on Monday morning, but high wind in the recovery zone delayed their return.

“One more night with this magical view. Who could complain? I’ll miss our spaceship!” Mr Pesquet tweeted alongside a brief video showing the space station illuminated against the blackness of space and the twinkling city lights on the night-time side of earth.

From the space station, Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei — midway through a one-year flight — bid farewell to each of his departing friends, telling Ms McArthur: “I’ll miss hearing your laughter in adjacent modules.”

Before leaving the neighbourhood, the four took a spin around the space station, taking pictures.

This was a first for SpaceX; Nasa’s shuttles used to do it all the time before their retirement a decade ago. The last Russian capsule fly-around was three years ago.

It was not the most comfortable ride back. The toilet in their capsule was broken, and so the astronauts needed to rely on diapers for the eight-hour trip home. They shrugged it off late last week as just one more challenge in their mission.

The first issue arose shortly after their April lift-off; Mission Control warned a piece of space junk was threatening to collide with their capsule. It turned out to be a false alarm.

Then in July, thrusters on a newly arrived Russian lab inadvertently fired and sent the station into a spin. The four astronauts took shelter in their docked SpaceX capsule, ready to make a hasty departure if necessary.

Among the upbeat milestones: four spacewalks to enhance the station’s solar power, a movie-making visit by a Russian film crew and the first-ever space harvest of chili peppers.

The next crew will also spend six months up there, welcoming back-to-back groups of tourists.

A Japanese tycoon and his personal assistant will get a lift from the Russian Space Agency in December, followed by three businessmen arriving via SpaceX in February.

SpaceX’s first privately chartered flight, in September, bypassed the space station. – PA

ABC News Live: Biden administration withdrawing vaccine mandate for large businesses l ABCNL.

ABC News Live: Biden administration withdrawing vaccine mandate for large businesses l ABCNL.

Plus, the Syrian Democratic Forces say they have regained control of a prison where ISIS militants attempted to break 3,000 fighters out of captivity. #biden #vaccinemandates #SyrianDemocraticForces #isis #abcnl #abcnews

COVID origin response has been detrimental to science: Former CDC director.

COVID origin response has been detrimental to science: Former CDC director.

Former CDC director Robert Redfield discusses new documents raising questions on what top scientists knew about COVID origins. #FoxNews #TheStory Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News Channel (FNC)...

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MoneyWatch: Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates.

MoneyWatch: Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates.

The Federal Reserve signaled it's getting ready to raise interest rates as soon as March but will keep rates near zero for now. Jared Woodard, the head of the research investment committee of Bank of America Global Research, joined CBS News at the...

$110,000 reward offered in death of 16-year-old Tioni Theus.

$110,000 reward offered in death of 16-year-old Tioni Theus.

Los Angeles County announced a $110,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects for the death of Tioni Theus, who was found dead on the 110 Freeway on Jan. 8.

Six Nations hit with COVID-19 travel challenges

Six Nations hit with COVID-19 travel challenges

COVID vaccination status may not be a requirement to play for a rugby team but it will determine if some players will be eligible to travel for the upcoming Six Nations. Vaccinations are a requirement when traveling into countries like France. Eng...

COVID-19: Cases rise in children returning to the classroom.

COVID-19: Cases rise in children returning to the classroom.

COVID infection rates have been decreasing in the UK since the Christmas holidays. But more children have been getting infected since the schools returned. Almost one in 12 under-18s have been infected - and in some cases multiple times. Sky's Sci...

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