CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA announced late Monday that it was delaying the return of four astronauts to Earth who are currently aboard the International Space Station.
The four astronauts — NASA's Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and the Japanese space agency’s Soichi Noguchi — will now be returning to Earth on Saturday.
The four were part of the Dragon's first operational mission launch in November last year.
The crew was scheduled to make their return trip on Wednesday, but according to NASA, high winds are currently forecasted for off the coast of Florida for Wednesday, making recovery conditions unsafe.
Despite the delay, the crew is eager to make their return flight home.
"It's exciting to go home so we can see our friends and family," Walker said in a press conference from aboard the ISS on Monday.
According to a press release, those returning Wednesday will either splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean around 12:40 p.m. ET.
The spacecraft is set to undock from the space station at 7:05 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Hopkins said Monday that the crew will know within 24 hours whether they will have weather conditions favorable enough to begin a departure sequence.
According to NASA, the schedule is as follows (all times are Eastern):
Friday, April 30
- 3:30 p.m. – NASA TV coverage begins for 3:50 p.m. hatch closure
- 5:30 p.m. – NASA TV coverage begins for 5:55 p.m. undocking
Saturday, May 1
- 11:36 a.m. – Splashdown (NASA TV will provide continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)
- 1:30 p.m. – Return to Earth news conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
On Saturday, the ISS population swelled to 11 with the arrival of SpaceX's third crew capsule in less than a year.
It's the biggest crowd up there in more than a decade.
Noguchi on Monday called the most recent arrival his most memorable moment of his mission, saying that he was excited to add more scientists and pilots to the community.
A recycled SpaceX capsule carrying four astronauts arrived at the space station on Saturday, a day after launching from Florida.
The new arrivals — representing the U.S., France, and Japan — will spend six months at the space station.
The returning astronauts departed Earth on Nov. 16 as the U.S. was seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. They'll return to Earth in a world still held hostage by the virus — though astronauts said it was exciting that more people in the U.S. were getting vaccinated.
"We've definitely enjoyed not wearing masks up here...but we'll continue to do so when we land because it's the right thing to do," Walker said.
She added that the astronauts will receive a vaccine dose within seven to 10 days after returning to Earth.