Four-astronaut team leaves ISS for earth

STORY: The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying three U.S. NASA astronauts and a German astronaut from the European Space Agency undocked from the ISS at 1:20 a.m. EDT (0520 GMT) to embark on a return flight expected to last about 23 hours.

Live video showing the capsule drifting away from the station as the two vehicles soared high over Australia was shown on a NASA webcast.

Wearing helmeted white-and-black spacesuits, the four astronauts were seen strapped into the crew cabin shortly before the spacecraft separated from the space station, orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth.

A series of several brief rocket thrusts then autonomously pushed the capsule safely clear of the ISS and lowered its orbit to line up the spacecraft for later atmospheric reentry and splashdown.

The Endurance crew, consisting of American astronauts Tom Marshburn, 61, Raja Chari, 44 and Kayla Barron, 34, along with ESA crewmate Matthias Maurer, 52, arrived at the space station on November 11.

Their departure came about a week after they welcomed their replacement team aboard the station, also currently home to three Russian cosmonauts on a long-term mission. One of those cosmonauts, Oleg Artemyev, assumed command of the ISS from Marshburn in a handover before Thursday's undocking, NASA said.