SpaceX capsule brings four astronauts home from six-month mission

The third SpaceX long-duration astronaut crew has successfully returned to Earth, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida, capping months of orbital study on everything from space-grown chillies to robots.

After a 23-hour-plus autonomous trip home from the International Space Station, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying three American NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency (ESA) crewmate from Germany parachuted into calm seas in darkness.

A joint NASA-SpaceX webcast broadcast the splashdown live at 12:45 a.m. local time (04:45 GMT) on Friday.

The Endurance crew included Tom Marshburn, 61, an American spaceflight veteran, and three first-time astronauts: NASA’s Raja Chari, 44, and Kayla Barron, 34, as well as their ESA colleague Matthias Maurer, 52.

The astronauts were strapped into their seats and wearing helmeted white-and-black spacesuits in camera pictures from within the crew compartment.

Splashdown response crews were due to arrive at the spacecraft floating in the ocean in about an hour, hoist it onto the deck of a recovery vessel, and open the hatch to let the astronauts out for the first time in nearly six months.

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