NASA's Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, along with German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, arrived back on Earth about 24 hours after undocking from the station.
The Crew Dragon capsule could be seen streaking across the night sky before four parachutes were deployed to slow down the spacecraft's re-entry.
"Splashdown of Dragon confirmed — welcome back to Earth," SpaceX tweeted.
Elon Musk's SpaceX began flying crews to and from the space station in 2020. SpaceX brought four astronauts — three from the US and one from Italy — to the human outpost last week to replace the four that returned on Friday.
Maurer is only the 12th German to have been to space and his trip has been closely followed in the country since the blast-off on Nov. 11 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The 52-year-old is due back in Germany by Friday evening.
“That was a great ride,” said Raja Chari, the capsule commander. As for the reintroduction to gravity, he noted: “Only one complaint. These water bottles are super heavy.”
The four crew member were out of the capsule within an hour of splashdown, waving and giving thumbs-up as they were hustled away on rolling chaises for medical checks.
Their departure from the space station Thursday was bittersweet, as they embraced the seven astronauts remaining there.
“It’s the end of a six-month mission, but I think the space dream lives on,” Maurer said, the Associated Press reported.
Musk’s company has now launched 26 people into orbit in less than two years, since it started ferrying astronauts for NASA. Eight of those 26 were space tourists.
NASA is more impressed than ever, given SpaceX's hectic pace of late. “Look at all this work in the last month," said Kathy Lueders, NASA's space operations mission chief. “I really want to personally thank SpaceX for just, wow, just performing such seamless operations on all those missions.”
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 US astronauts picked for NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. Two others in that elite group are now at the space station.
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