Story at a glance

  • Four astronauts returned from the International Space Station on Sunday.
  • The crew did a splashdown landing in darkness off the coast of Florida.
  • This was the first splashdown in darkness since 1968.

Four astronauts with SpaceX returned from the International Space Station on Sunday, landing in the Gulf of Mexico — the first time a U.S. space crew has done a splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 in 1968. 

“We welcome you back to planet Earth, and thanks for flying SpaceX,” mission control radioed the crew after splashdown. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”


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The crew was arriving home following a 167-day mission, making it the longest mission in history for astronauts that had launched from the United States. Prior to this mission, the last record was held by NASA’s Skylab crew in 1974 with 84 days. The trip back to Earth only took six and a half hours.

The astronauts were three Americans — Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker — as well as Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, who went into space in November. Their return marked the end of the second space flight for SpaceX, owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. 

The crew was set to return to Earth last Wednesday but had to abort the plan due to high offshore winds, making the shift to a splashdown in darkness because of the calm weather and conditions.

After the astronauts boarded the recovery ship, they were scheduled to take a helicopter to shore and then a plane to Houston to reunite with their families.


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Published on May 03, 2021