Four astronauts have returned to Earth from the International Space Station, in what was Nasa’s first night-time landing in 53 years.
The crew consist of three Nasa astronauts and one from Japan’s space agency Jaxa, who spent almost six months in space.
They flew back in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience and splash-landed off Panama City, Florida at 02:56 EDT.
They were supposed to leave the ISS earlier, but their departure was delayed due to bad weather in Florida.
Nasa said the crew were in good spirits after successfully landing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Speaking at a press conference after the landing, a SpaceX crew operations and resources engineer told the astronauts: “Dragon, on behalf of Nasa and SpaceX teams, we welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier programme, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”
Nasa astronaut Michael Hopkins, commander of the Crew-1 mission, replied: “It is good to be back on planet Earth. We’ll take those miles. Are they transferable?”
Confirming the safe landing on Sunday morning, Nasa said the crew were given medical checks before being flown from Pensacola, Florida to Houston, Texas.
The last Nasa crew to land back on Earth at night-time was Apollo-8 – the first manned mission to the moon, which returned on 27 December 1968.
This latest mission was a collaboration between Nasa and SpaceX, as part of the former’s Commercial Crew programme.
SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, has become Nasa’s favoured commercial space flight partner.
There are still seven astronauts on the ISS, including a new crew of four people who arrived on a different SpaceX craft last week on a mission called Crew-2.
#ICYMI: @SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi took a six-and-a-half hour ride back to Earth overnight on the #CrewDragon Resilience. pic.twitter.com/EXhpBb7CKj
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) May 2, 2021