NASA and SpaceX's first commercial crew programme splashed down after their six-month mission on the International Space Station on Sunday.
The US state agency said that three astronauts from NASA and one mission specialist from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) -- Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi respectively -- successfully returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 2:56 am. EDT off the coast of Panama City, Florida on Sunday.
Crews in transit of SpaceX recovery vessels recovered the spacecraft and astronauts. On returning to the shore, the astronauts are expected to fly back to Houston, says NASA.
"Welcome home Victor, Michael, Shannon and Soichi and congratulations to the team at NASA and SpaceX who worked so hard to ensure their safe and successful splashdown," NASA Administrator, Senator Bill Nelson said.
The six-month programme of Resilience, the spacecraft launched by the Crew-1 on a Falcon 9 rocket on November 15, 2020, marks the longest duration mission of a crewed American spacecraft to date.
"We've accomplished another incredible spaceflight for America and our commercial and international partners. Safe, reliable transportation to the International Space Station is exactly the vision that NASA had when the agency embarked on the commercial crew programme," Bill Nelson added.
Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi completed 2,688 orbits around the earth, travelling 71,242,199 statute miles during their 168 days in orbit (with 167 days within the space station). Following the arrival, the crew broke the American crewed spacecraft mission duration record set by the Skylab crew of 84 days, 1 hour, 15 minutes in February 1974.
After Apollo 8's predawn return in the Pacific Ocean on 27 December 1968, with NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders; Crew-1 is the first night splashdown of a US crewed spacecraft.
Amidst spacewalks and public engagement events, while aboard the orbiting laboratory, the astronauts had contributed to scientific investigations and technology demonstrations ranging from studying protein crystal development to demonstrating robotic assistant technologies, exploration of the universe while bringing benefits back to Earth.
The spacecraft landed on the face of the earth just one week after the launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission, the second long-duration mission. The astronauts of Crew-2 were launched on April 23 and will live and work within the station for six months until their return to Earth, NASA informed.