After more than 160 days of space travel, four astronauts, three Americans and a Japanese man took off from the International Space Station on Saturday aboard the SpaceX spacecraft.
The crew ‘Dragon capsule took off from the International Space Station on time (20.35 GMT off the U.S. coast on Saturday and 00.35 GMT on Sunday).
“Thanks for your hospitality, see you on Earth,” said Michael Hopkins, one of the four astronauts addressing the rest of the station.
The return flight to Earth will take six and a half hours.
The four astronauts will land in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday at 2.57 local time (6.57 GMT). The planned landing site is outside Panama City, Florida, but other locations have been designated as needed.
“We trained to rescue the crew day and night,” said Steve Stitch, in charge of NASA’s commercial flight program, shortly before the capsule’s took off.
SpaceX vehicles can reach the capsule within 10 minutes of landing.
Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese Sochi Noguchi were the first astronauts on an “operation” mission in November. Elon Musk’s space company transported to the International Space Station.
Two other Americans have already made a round trip to Dragon in 2020 as part of a two – month test mission at the station. This is the first flight to the International Space Station launched by the United States since the space shuttle was shut down in 2011, the first flight by a private company with astronauts.
This is the first regular mission to bring SpaceX back to Earth.
NASA says Dragon is in scientific freezers full of research evidence built on zero gravity.
In total, the crew-1 spent 168 days in space.
In addition to the four astronauts on the crew-2, another American astronaut and two Russians are on board the Soyuz rocket. Before the crew-1 took off, the space station was home to at least 11 people.
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