SpaceX craft on its way to bring four astronauts to the International Space Station following several delays Four long-duration space station astronauts bid their lab crewmates farewell and undocked from the International Space Station early Thursday, setting off for a scheduled pre-dawn splashdown off the coast of Florida on Friday morning to close out a 176-day mission. SpaceX Crew-3 commander Raja Chari, pilot Thomas Marshburn, submariner-turned-astronaut Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer strapped into their ferry ship — the Crew Dragon Endurance — and backed away from the outpost at 1:05 a.m. EDT Thursday. The Crew Dragon Endurance, carrying commander Raja Chari, pilot Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, undocked and backed away from the International Space Station early Thursday, setting up a splashdown off the coast of Florida early Friday. NASA "Station, (this is) Endurance," Chari radioed as the ferry ship slowly separated from the ISS. "Thanks for the warm send-off. Good luck to Expedition 67, it was great being up there with you guys. Can't wait to see the awesome work you guys continue to do." "Endurance, we appreciate the kind words," Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren replied from the station. "We had a great time handing over with you all and look forward to seeing your smiling faces on the ground." Because of the station's position in its orbit relative to the Gulf of Mexico landing zone, the astronauts will have to spend nearly a full day cooped up inside the SpaceX capsule before they'll be in the right place, at the right time, to drop out of orbit on a trajectory to splashdown Friday at 12:43 a.m. SpaceX recovery crews will be standing by to haul the capsule aboard a company ship and help the returning astronauts get out for initial medical checks as they begin re-adapting to gravity after nearly six months in weightlessness. At splashdown, the crew will have completed 2,832 orbits covering 75 million miles. Monitoring the descent from the space station will be Soyuz cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, along with SpaceX Crew-4 commander Lindgren, pilot Robert Hines, geologist-astronaut Jessica Watkins and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Kayla Barron helps close the Crew Dragon's hatch before undocking while her three crewmates review procedures. NASA "It's been an interesting day for us, we've been flying around the station, collecting our last-minute photos or last minute items, and getting ready to come home," Marshburn said during a brief farewell ceremony Thursday. "So a bit of a bittersweet day for all of us." All four crew members thanked flight controllers, scientists and supp . . . read the full article here.