May 2, 2021 - Science

Four astronauts delivered back to Earth by SpaceX

The Atlantic Ocean seen from space
Photo: NASA

An international crew of four astronauts is back on Earth after a long-duration stay on the International Space Station.

The big picture: Sunday's splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico marks the end of SpaceX's first fully operational crewed mission to the space station.

A night-vision camera pictures the SpaceX Crew Dragon parachuting to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico as fast boats arrive to retrieve the crew.
A night-vision camera captures the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule parachuting in the Gulf of Mexico as boats arrive to pick up the astronauts. Photo: NASA TV

What's happening: NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan's Soichi Noguchi splashed down about 3a.m. ET after undocking from the space station Saturday evening.

  • The return of this crew leaves a crew of seven people on the space station now, four flown up by another SpaceX mission and three that flew to space aboard Russia's Soyuz.

What's next: The Crew Dragon capsule — named Resilience — will now be turned around so it can be used for SpaceX's next crewed flight, the Inspiration 4 mission to orbit expected to launch in September.

  • As part of its refurbishment, SpaceX is planning to install a large window in place of the spacecraft's docking adaptor to give the all-civilian crew an unmatched view of space while in orbit.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with images from the splashdown.

Go deeper