SpaceX brings 4 astronauts home thanks to midnight launch

(ORDO NEWS) — SpaceX flew home four astronauts who splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico at midnight, ending Elon Musk‘s busiest month of taxi service.

Three American and one German astronauts were in a capsule off the coast of Florida, near Tampa, less than 24 hours after leaving the International Space Station. NASA expected them to return to Houston in the late afternoon.

Raja Chari, NASA’s Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency hugged the seven astronauts who remained on the station before parting ways.

“This is the end of a six-month mission, but I think the space dream lives on,” Maurer said.

Last week, SpaceX brought their American and Italian replacements to the station after completing a charter trip to the station for a group of businessmen.

This means two crew launches and two launches in just one month. Musk’s company has launched 26 people into orbit in less than two years since it began transporting astronauts for NASA. Eight of those 26 people were space tourists.

“Welcome home,” SpaceX’s control room broadcast during the descent. “Thank you for flying on SpaceX.”

“It was a great flight,” said Chari, the capsule commander. Regarding returning to gravity, he said: “Only one complaint. These water bottles are very heavy.”

All four came out of the capsule an hour later, waved and clapped their hands as they were taken away for a medical examination.

The astronauts said their mission was marked by three visitors and their former astronaut who flew in in April, opening part of the NASA station to paying guests.

When handing over command of the space station earlier this week, Marshburn called it a “place of peace” and said international cooperation is likely to be a permanent legacy.

Now there are three Russians, three Americans and one Italian.

It was Marshburn’s third spaceflight and the first for the three returning with him. Chari and Barron’s next stop could be the Moon; they are among 18 American astronauts selected to participate in NASA’s Artemis moon landing program. Two others from this elite group are now on the space station.

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