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Richland Native Should Return to Earth Wednesday

Richland native Mike Hopkins will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX promise more Coast Guard patrols and fewer pleasure boaters for Wednesday afternoon’s planned splashdown off the Florida Gulf Coast; it’s the company’s second return of a crew.

Last August, pleasure boaters swarmed the two-person Dragon capsule causing disruptions in recovery.

Leaking fuel from the capsule’s thrusters could endanger people outside the capsule. A crowd could also hamper SpaceX’s recovery effort.

Hopkins is winding up his mission, along with U.S. crewmates Victor Glover and Shannon Walker. . Their replacements arrived Saturday on their own SpaceX capsule.

When Hopkins and his crew launched last November, they hoped to return to a world where COVID-19 held less of a grip than it does. They will go into semi-quarantine for a while, Walker said, to give their space-weakened immune systems time to bounce back.

They’ll roll up their sleeves for their first vaccine shot seven to 10 days after splashdown.

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