The SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship carrying four astronauts touched down off the coast of Florida, bringing their six-month mission in space to a close.
Before the next crew of astronauts could reach the ISS to replace them, Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide returned to Earth.
The astronauts boarded the Crew Dragon capsule, which has been docked to the International Space Station since the crew arrived in April.
The Crew Dragon spent over nine hours gently moving through orbit, nearing the thick inner layer of Earth’s atmosphere, before safely slashing through 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 retrieved by a fleet of rescue ships.
“It’s amazing to be back on planet Earth,” Kimbrough was heard saying on NASA’s webcast shortly after splashdown.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide oversaw various research projects and even tested the first chile peppers grown in space during their time in orbit.
They also went on spacewalks, donning the distinctive puffy white spacesuits to exit the space station to work on its exterior, and faced some scary challenges, including as repairing a new Russian module that linked to the ISS and briefly knocked it out of position.
The purpose of NASA and SpaceX’s collaborative ISS missions is to keep the 21-year-old space station fully staffed, allowing the orbiting laboratory to get the most out of its time in orbit.