The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts splashed down off the coast of Florida, bringing their six-month stay in space to a close.
The astronauts boarded the Crew Dragon capsule, which had been attached to the International Space Station since it arrived with the crew in April, shortly after 2 p.m. ET on Monday. The Crew Dragon spent nearly nine hours slowly manoeuvring through orbit, approaching the thick inner layer of Earth’s atmosphere, before safely slicing into the air, deploying parachutes, and splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico around 10:30 p.m. on Monday.
The four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide — were rescued by a fleet of rescue ships that awaited their arrival.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide oversaw numerous science experiments and even tested the first chile peppers grown in space during their time in space. They also went on spacewalks, exiting the space station in their iconic puffy white spacesuits to work on the exterior, and faced some harrowing challenges, such as repairing a new Russian module that attached to the ISS and briefly knocked it out of position.
The trek home presented one last challenge: Issues with the toilet on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule left the astronauts without a bathroom option during their trip back home. Instead, the crew was forced to rely on “undergarments” — essentially adult diapers — during the nine-hour journey.
McArthur said using underwear instead of the toilet is “suboptimal” during a press conference held remotely from the International Space Station on Friday.
“But we are prepared to manage,” she said. “Spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges. This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission, so we’re not too worried about it.”