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Three astronauts are returning home after waiting out most of the pandemic in space

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This evening, three astronauts who have been living on board the International Space Station for the last six months will return back to Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule, landing in the middle of the Kazakhstan desert. The trio have lived in space for nearly the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic and are now returning as cases are rising again across the world.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin launched to the ISS on the Soyuz back in early April, nearly a month after the World Health Organization had declared that the COVID-19 outbreak had become a pandemic. Thanks to the outbreak, the crew underwent a stricter quarantine than usual before they took off. Cassidy said he remained mostly isolated when he first arrived in Russia’s Star City ahead of the launch. “Had I been in normal quarantine, I probably could have gone out to some restaurants and left the immediate parameters of the Star City area and just been smart about where we went,” Cassidy said during press interviews on March 19th. “But not this time.”

The crew then traveled to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and went through the typical two-week quarantine that all astronauts undergo before launching.

Since arriving at the space station on April 9th, the trio have mostly lived alone as the pandemic ebbed and flowed on the Earth below. They did welcome some visitors over the summer, when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew to the ISS aboard SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon capsule at the end of May. Their arrival marked the first time that people had flown to the ISS on board a privately made vehicle.

Behnken and Hurley only stayed for two months, returning to Earth on August 2nd. “It was lonely conversations I had with myself at dinner prior to their arrival,” Cassidy said the day before they left. “And with these last two months, it’s been fantastic to have buddies at the chow table to reflect on the day, think about tomorrow, and talk about world events.”

Cassidy, Vagner, and Ivanishin are leaving just as another crew of three are taking over control of the ISS. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov arrived at the ISS on October 13th. Ryzhikov took over command of the station yesterday, and the new trio will stay on the ISS until April. They’ll eventually be joined by four astronauts, all slated to fly on the second crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. That flight is tentatively planned for mid-November, though NASA and SpaceX have not confirmed a date yet. NASA is currently reviewing an engine issue that cropped up on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which carries the Crew Dragon to orbit.

After mostly avoiding the pandemic, Cassidy and his crewmates will now be returning to a world that is still focused on social distancing, wearing masks, and stopping the spread of COVID-19. In a tweet, Cassidy showed pictures of himself wearing a mask, claiming he was practicing for his “new reality.”

Their departure gets underway today at around 4:10PM ET, when the crew will climb inside their Soyuz and close the capsule’s hatch. The trio will then undock from the station at around 7:32PM ET and the Soyuz will slowly distance from the station for the next two and a half hours. The capsule’s engines will fire at around 10PM ET, taking the Soyuz out of orbit and putting it on course for Earth. The Soyuz should land around 10:55PM ET, according to NASA.

NASA plans to provide coverage of every major event tonight on its dedicated channel, so check back throughout the night to watch Cassidy and his crewmates make their way home.

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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