In darkness, four astronauts splashed down early Sunday morning in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Fla.
That marked a successful end of a mission for NASA led by a private company, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to take its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It was the first of what the space agency calls an operational mission.
Half a year ago, a SpaceX rocket lifted off with the four astronauts — three from NASA, one from Japan’s space agency — who were sitting inside one of the company’s Crew Dragon capsules. On Sunday, the same capsule, named Resilience, safely returned to Earth, just before 3 a.m. Eastern time.
“We welcome you back to planet Earth, and thanks for flying SpaceX,” Michael Heiman, a SpaceX mission control official, told the astronauts. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier program, you have earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”
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