SpaceX Brings Home 4 Astronauts With Midnight Splash

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX brought home four astronauts with a midnight splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, ending the busiest month yet for Elon Musk’s taxi service.

The three US astronauts and a German in the capsule were bobbing off the coast of Florida near Tampa less than 24 hours after leaving the International Space Station. NASA expected to have them back in Houston later in the morning.

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

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

SpaceX brought its US and Italian replacements last week after completing a charter trip to the station for a trio of businessmen.

That equates to two crew launches and two splashdowns in just under a month. Since beginning to carry astronauts for NASA, Musk’s company has put 26 people into orbit in less than two years. Eight of those 26 were space tourists.


“Welcome home,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed at Splashdown. “Thank you for flying SpaceX.”

“It was a great ride,” replied Chari, the capsule’s commander. On reintroduction to gravity, he remarked, “Just one complaint. These water bottles are super heavy.”

The newly returned astronauts said their mission was highlighted by the three visitors and their ex-astronaut escort who stopped by in April and opened the NASA side of the station to paying guests after decades of resistance.

On the other hand, they have had to deal with a dangerous spike in space debris after Russia blew up a satellite in a missile test in mid-November. Over the years, more than 1,500 pieces of shrapnel are scattered throughout Earth’s orbit.

While the war in Ukraine has fueled tensions between the US and Russia, astronauts have stood by their Russian crewmates and vice versa. Air traffic controllers in Houston and Moscow also continued to work together as usual, according to NASA officials.


When he relinquished command of the space station earlier this week, Marshburn called it “a place of peace” and said international cooperation would likely be its enduring legacy. Russian Oleg Artemyev, the new commander, also emphasized the “peace between our countries, our friendship” in orbit and referred to his crew members as brothers and sisters.

There are now three Russians, three Americans and one Italian up there.

It was Marshburn’s third spaceflight and the first for the three who returned with him. Chari and Barron’s next stop could be the moon; They are among 18 US astronauts selected for NASA’s Artemis lunar landing program. Two others from this elite group are now on the space station.


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Justin Scacco

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