On Friday, four astronauts were brought home by SpaceX with a midnight splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.
The crew consisted of three U.S. astronauts and one German. Within 24 hours of leaving the International Space Station, they were bogging off the coast of Florida near Tampa. NASA demanded them back in Houston later in the morning.
Before saying their goodbyes to the seven astronauts remaining aboard the station, NASA’s Raja Chari, NASA’s Tom Marshburn, NASA’s Kayla Barron and ESA’s Matthias Maurer embraced each other. Mr Maurer said, “It’s the end of a six-month mission, but I think the space dream lives on”. Following a charter flight to the station for three businessmen, SpaceX brought up their American and Italian replacements last week.
After decades of resistance, the newly returned astronauts said the three visitors and an ex-astronaut escort who visited the station in April were a highlight of their mission.
Two crew launches and two splashdowns within a month. In less than two years since Musk started ferrying NASA astronauts, his company has launched 26 people into orbit. Among them, eight were space tourists.
There are three Russians, three Americans and one Italian up on the space station.