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SpaceX capsule returns four astronauts from space in first night splashdown since 1968

SpaceX capsule returns four astronauts from space in first night splashdown since 1968
© Getty Images

SpaceX confirmed the successful recovery of four astronauts following a return mission to Earth from the International Space Station early Sunday morning.

In a tweet, the private spaceflight firm welcomed back NASA astronauts Vic Glover, Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Sôichi Noguchi, following their splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.

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“We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” radioed SpaceX’s Mission Control official Michael Heiman just after the splashdown completed, according to multiple news reports. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer program, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”

“[Spacecraft] Resilience is back on planet Earth and we’ll take those miles,” quipped Hopkins in response. “Are they transferrable?”

Hopkins went on to praise for SpaceX operators who coordinated the mission after landing,

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together," he said, according to The Associated Press.

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"Quite frankly, you all are changing the world. Congratulations. It’s great to be back.”

Sunday's mission, which was delayed for several days due to weather and lasted just over six hours, marked the first nighttime recovery of astronauts from a splashdown in more than half a century.

The company is aiming to start private spaceflights for individual tourists by 2023.