May 14, 2021

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Astronauts splash-land in SpaceX capsule after landmark six-month mission to International Space Station

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Four astronauts who have spent the past six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have safely returned to Earth after their capsule landed off the coast of Florida.

The team was part of SpaceX’s first full mission to the ISS and spent 167 days in orbit after launching in November, marking the longest mission for US-launched astronauts to date: more than double the previous record of 84 days in 1974.

Nasa’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi safely parachuted down in a Dragon capsule in the Gulf of Mexico at 3am local time on Sunday morning, the first US splashdown at nighttime since Apollo 8’s 1968 return from the moon.

The crew will be checked by medical teams before being reunited with their families. They are expected to spend some time in a ‘semi-quarantine’ after time spent in space slightly depressed their immune systems, Ms Walker said on Monday.

Astronauts splash-land in SpaceX capsule after landmark six-month mission to International Space Station
Support teams working around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after it landed (Photo: NASA/AFP/Getty)

Holly Ridings, Nasa’s chief flight director, said all four crew members were “doing really well” and were in “great shape and great spirits” during a press conference.

Hans Koenigsmann, senior adviser of flight reliability at SpaceX, said the favourable weather meant it had been a “great night” for a recovery operation, as high winds in the Gulf delayed the shuttle’s original return which had been scheduled for 28 April.

“Everything came together and resulted in these record-breaking times for getting the Dragon out of the water and the crew out of Dragon,” he added.

SpaceX, the space transportation company owned by Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, is the first private space flight operator to transport astronauts to and from the ISS for a long mission.

Nasa awarded SpaceX and Boeing contracts in 2014 to provide crewed launch services to the space station as part of its Commercial Crew Programme and to end its reliance on Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to shuttle its crew to the ISS.

The Dragon capsule will be checked over and refurbished for use in SpaceX’s first private crew charity mission in September, which will see four civilians, including tech billionaire and amateur pilot Jared Isaacman, a pair of competition winners and a doctor from a charity, travel into orbit for three days.

1 thought on “Astronauts splash-land in SpaceX capsule after landmark six-month mission to International Space Station

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