The four astronauts who left the International Space Station (ERA) on Saturday landed off Florida, in the USA, aboard a SpaceX capsule, after more than 160 days in space.
The Crew Dragon space capsule, dubbed “Resilience”, dropped by parachute in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, just before 3:00 am Eastern Time (7:00 am in Lisbon) ), ending the second flight of the four astronauts to the company of Elon Musk.
Boats moved to retrieve the capsule and the astronauts.
After separating from the International Space Station at the scheduled time, at 8:35 pm Saturday, US Eastern Time (12:35 pm today in Lisbon), the Crew Dragon night flight back to Earth took about six and a half hours as planned.
The astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, returned to Earth in the same capsule that was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in November.
A 167-day mission it is the longest for American astronauts, as the previous record of 84 days had been set by NASA’s final Skylab station crew in 1974.
American astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, from NASA, and Soichi Noguchi, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), were the first on an “operational” mission sent to EEI by SpaceX, a privately run company by US magnate Elon Musk last November.
Two Americans had already made the round trip to the EEI aboard the Crew Dragon capsule in 2020, during a two-month test mission.
This is the first regular mission to be brought back to Earth by SpaceX.
The space capsule also carries “scientific freezers full of research samples” carried out in zero gravity on board, the head of NASA’s commercial flight program, Steve Stich, told France-Presse (AFP).
This crew’s return to Earth follows the arrival at the International Space Station last week of a second regular mission, which includes Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and Japanese Akihiko Hoshide.