Space X craft brings back ISS astronauts off Florida

Washington, United States: A NASA Livestream showed a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts splashing down off the coast of Florida early Sunday.

Following their return to Earth after a nearly six-month mission aboard the International Space Station, the crew said they were in good spirits.

After a six-and-a-half-hour flight from the ISS, the capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City at 2:56 a.m. (0656 GMT), according to night-vision images relayed by NASA's WB-57 high-altitude research aircraft.

The capsule was recovered and hoisted onto the deck of the Go Navigator recovery ship about half an hour later. Since the crew of Apollo 8 arrived in the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968, it was NASA's first nighttime splashdown.

After the hatch was opened, Commander Michael Hopkins was the first to emerge, doing a little jig as he stepped onto the deck, accompanied by fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover.

"On behalf of Crew-1 and our families, we just want to say thank you ... It's amazing what can be accomplished when people come together. Y'all are changing the world. Congratulations. It's great to be back," Hopkins said in a NASA tweet.

Shannon Walker, a NASA astronaut, and Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut, were the other two people on board.

Last November, the four astronauts were part of the first fully operational flight to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX spacecraft, which has become NASA's preferred commercial transportation partner.

According to NASA, the four crew members will now be removed from the spacecraft and given medical checks before being transported by helicopter to Pensacola, where they will board a plane to Houston, where they will be reunited with their friends and relatives.

Seven astronauts remained on the ISS, including a new four-person crew who arrived last week on a separate SpaceX craft.

"Thanks for your hospitality," Hopkins said earlier as the capsule undocked from the space station for its return journey. "We'll see you back on Earth."

In May, two American astronauts flew to the ISS on a test mission and remained for two months.

It was the first launch to the International Space Station from US soil since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. It was also the first crewed mission not operated by NASA but by a private corporation.

Until then, US astronauts had taken trips to the International Space Station on Russian spacecraft.

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