While most of the U.S. was sleeping on Saturday night into Sunday morning, four astronauts aboard the International Space Station made the journey back home.
NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, and Shannon Glover, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), boarded their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, at 8:35 p.m. ET on Saturday. Six and a half hours later, all four were safely back on Earth, splashing down off the coast of Florida at 2:56 a.m. ET.
The timing of their arrival is notable here. This was the first nighttime splashdown for a crewed U.S. spacecraft since the Apollo 8 returned to Earth in 1968.
The overnight journey for the four astronauts completed a trip that started on Nov. 15, 2020 when a SpaceX rocket carried the same four astronauts skyward, with a “Baby Yoda” plush doll in tow. There’s been no word on the status of the Baby Yoda doll. In total, the astronauts spent 168 days in orbit, with 167 of those days spent aboard the ISS (the rest was transit time).
This marks the second successful splashdown as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which sees the space agency working with outside interests like SpaceX to send American astronauts into space aboard U.S. built rockets that lift off from U.S. soil. Another SpaceX mission, dubbed Crew-2, is already underway, after a successful launch in late April that ferried two NASA astronauts, one JAXA astronaut, and a European Space Agency astronaut to the ISS.
The Resilience splashdown wasn’t the flashiest thing to watch given the time of day, but it was a safe and successful one. It’s the only thing that matters, really. And, importantly, the arriving astronauts are thrilled to be home.