Three NASA astronauts and a European astronaut are returning home from the ISS

Four astronauts are returning to Earth later after a six-month stay on the International Space Station.

They worked alongside Russian cosmonauts and became part of history when they did hosted the first all-private crew to visit the orbiting outpost last month.

The three NASA astronauts and a European boarded a SpaceX The Crew Dragon capsule shortly after 05:00 BST (00:00 ET) left the space station just over an hour later.

Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, of German descent, will spend 23 hours flying home before crashing off the coast of Florida at around 05:43 BST (00: 43 ET) tomorrow (Friday).

The SpaceX Crew Dragon will strike Earth’s atmosphere 22 times faster than sound, subjecting astronauts to intense G-forces at the start of the final portion of their descent.

Four astronauts will return to Earth after a six-month stay on the International Space Station. From left, European Space Agency's Matthias Maurer, plus NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron are expected to land off Florida tomorrow (Friday)

Four astronauts will return to Earth after a six-month stay on the International Space Station. From left, European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer, plus NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron are expected to land off Florida tomorrow (Friday)

The three NASA astronauts and a European boarded a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule shortly after 05:00 BST (00:00 ET) and left the space station just over an hour later.

The three NASA astronauts and a European boarded a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule shortly after 05:00 BST (00:00 ET) and left the space station just over an hour later.

WHICH astronauts are returning from the ISS?

Raja Chari, 44 years old

American test pilot and NASA astronaut, Chari was born in Wisconsin before graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the United States Air Force Academy and the US Naval Test Pilot School.

He is a colonel with over 2,000 flight hours to his name.

Tom Marshburn, 61 years old

An American physician and NASA astronaut, Marshburn is a veteran of three space flights to the International Space Station.

He was the commander of his last mission, before handing over responsibility to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev.

Kayla Barron, 34 years old

An American submarine warfare officer and engineer, Barron was selected in June 2017 as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 22.

He studied at Cambridge University and took two spacewalks during his time in orbit.

Matteo Maurer, 52

German European Space Agency astronaut Maurer was a materials scientist who was selected in 2015 to take part in space training.

He successfully graduated from both basic astronaut training and pre-assignment training in 2018.

If all goes smoothly, the craft, dubbed the Endurance, will parachute into the sea carrying approximately 550 pounds of cargo from the science mission.

Today, a live video was shown on a NASA webcast showing the capsule moving away from the station as the two vehicles flew high over Australia.

Wearing black and white spacesuits with helmets, the four astronauts were seen tied up in the crew cabin just before the spacecraft separated from the space station, orbiting some 400km above Earth.

A series of several short rocket thrusts then autonomously pushed the capsule safely out of the ISS and lowered its orbit to align the spacecraft for subsequent atmospheric reentry and splashdown.

“The @NASA and @SpaceX teams are now aiming for the release of # Crew3 at 1:05 am Thursday May 5 from @Space_Station,” NASA human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders said today via Twitter, referring to the times in ET.

“Splashdown off the coast of Florida is scheduled for 12:37 am on Friday May 6. The new release time allows for a shorter phase and more time to review the latest forecast information.”

He added: “The weather is being monitored closely to confirm that the selected primary and alternative sites are in favor of returning and we will conduct another weather review approximately 24 hours prior to release to determine if it is possible to proceed. And there is more. ‘

The Endurance crew, including Marshburn, 61, Chari, 44 and Barron, 34, and Maurer, 52, arrived at the space station on November 11 last year.

Their departure came about a week after welcoming their replacement team aboard the station, also currently home to three Russian cosmonauts on long-term missions.

One of those cosmonauts, Oleg Artemyev, took over command of the International Space Station from Marshburn in a handover before release on Thursday, NASA said.

The Endurance crew, including Marshburn, 61, Chari, 44 and Barron, 34 and Maurer, 52, arrived at the space station on November 11 last year

The Endurance crew, including Marshburn, 61, Chari, 44 and Barron, 34 and Maurer, 52, arrived at the space station on November 11 last year

A live video was shown on a NASA webcast today showing the capsule moving away from the station as the two vehicles flew high over Australia.

A live video was shown on a NASA webcast today showing the capsule moving away from the station as the two vehicles flew high over Australia.

The NASA-ESA team returning home today has been officially designated

The NASA-ESA team returning home today was officially designated “Crew 3”, the third full-fledged long-life astronaut group that SpaceX launched on the space station

In early April, a separate, completely private crew of astronauts, launched by SpaceX on the space station under contract to the Houston-based company Axiom Space, left the orbiting laboratory, ending two weeks in orbit.

Three wealthy businessmen – who each paid $ 55 million (£ 41 million) to take part in the trip – were joined by an ex NASA astronaut for the historical mission, organized by the startup Axiom Space.

Canadian investor Mark Pathy, US entrepreneur Larry Connor, former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe and retired astronaut Michael López-Alegría were expected to spend eight days conducting science experiments on the space station.

But bad weather repeatedly delayed their departure, meaning they actually worked alongside the government’s seven regular crew members, paid for by the government, for a total of 16 days.

The NASA-ESA team flying home today was officially designated “Crew 3,” the third full-fledged long-life astronaut group that SpaceX launched on the space station for the US space agency.

California-based SpaceX was founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, who recently struck a deal to purchase the social media platform Twitter.

The company has launched a total of seven human space flights in the past two years.

EXPLANATION: THE $ 100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION IS 250 MILES ABOVE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $ 100 billion (£ 80 billion) science and engineering laboratory orbiting 400 km above the Earth.

Since November 2000, the staff has been permanently composed of rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts.

The crews came mainly from the United States and Russia, but the Japanese space agency JAXA and the European space agency ESA also sent astronauts.

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been spent with the addition of numerous new modules and system upgrades

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions found in low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have studied human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, NASA, spends around $ 3 billion (£ 2.4 billion) annually on the space station program, with the remaining funds coming from international partners, including Europe, Russia and Japan.

So far 244 people from 19 countries have visited the station, including eight private citizens who have spent up to $ 50 million on their visit.

There is an ongoing debate about the station’s future beyond 2025, when it is thought that part of the original structure will reach “end of life”.

Russia, a major partner of the station, plans to launch its own orbital platform around then, with Axiom Space, a private company, planning to simultaneously send its modules for purely commercial use to the station.

NASA, ESA, JAXA and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to build a space station orbiting the moon, and Russia and China are working on a similar project that would also include a surface base.