Four astronauts have returned to Earth on Saturday on a SpaceX spacecraft after living aboard the International Space Station for six months.
The group, consisting of three Americans and one Japanese astronaut, left the ISS in the Crew Dragon capsule, the same one that took them into orbit, early this morning and travelled for six and a half hours before safely making a splashdown at the planned landing site near Florida in the Gulf of Mexico just before 9:00 AM, NASA confirmed.
Astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) were the first astronauts on an “operational” mission to be flown to the ISS last November by Elon Musk’s space company, which has established itself as a key partner to NASA.
Two other Americans have already made the round trip aboard Dragon in 2020, during a two-month test mission to the Station. It was the first flight to the ISS launched from the US since the end of the space shuttles in 2011, and the first by a private company with astronauts on board.
This time it is the first regular mission to be brought back to Earth by SpaceX.
The departure of this crew, Crew-1, follows the arrival onboard the ISS last week of a second regular mission carried by the American company (Crew-2), which includes French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.