03 spacex splashdown 1014
See moment SpaceX crew splashes down
01:07 - Source: NASA

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The Hubble Space Telescope captured a new snapshot of the asteroid that NASA recently slammed with a spacecraft in an attempt to knock it off course, and the image reveals the clearest look yet at some unexpected results from the mission — a twin tail of dust trailing behind the asteroid system.

The astronauts — NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, as well as Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti with the European Space Agency — were scheduled to depart from the space station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Thursday morning. But NASA was forced to wave off the departure because of the unfavorable weather conditions back on Earth.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft left its docking port at the ISS around noon ET and made a gradual trek home toward the edge of Earth’s thick inner atmosphere. Then, the capsule lit up its thrusters again to orient itself as it began its reentry. This step began to slow the spacecraft from its orbital speed of about 17,500 miles per hour (28,164 kilometers per hour). A heat shield kept the astronauts protected as the fiery swoop back toward Earth heated the spacecraft’s exterior to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 degrees Celsius).

A plume of parachutes then slowed its descent further before it came to a splashdown landing off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, just before 5 p.m. ET. Rescue ships waited nearby and hauled the spacecraft out of the water, allowing the astronauts to exit the capsule and take their first breaths of fresh air in about 170 days.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft that will bring the astronauts home typically has seven potential landing zones – just off the coast of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville.

Aerospace company SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon spacecraft under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Program.

Those experiments are designed to help astronauts understand how they may one day grow their own food and how their bodies may react on missions deeper into space, such as on NASA’s planned Artemis moon missions, Watkins said during a news briefing last week.

“It’s been awesome to be able to walk into the Columbus module and smell the smell of leaves growing, of plants growing,” Watkins told reporters.

Cristoforetti, who was on one previous mission to the space station in 2014-2015, is the sole woman in ESA’s astronaut corps, and she made history of her own on this mission. Last month, she took over as commander of the space station, becoming the first European woman to do so.

Cristoforetti also conducted a spacewalk in July to deploy small satellites and work on the installation of a new robotic arm on the space station’s exterior.